FRANKFORT — With Gov. Steve Beshear at his side, former University of Kentucky and NBA basketball star Derek Anderson spoke Thursday about his father's death to lung cancer and his support for a statewide smoking ban.
"Smoke-free workplaces make good sense for both health and our economy, so I hope the Kentucky legislature will make it happen," Anderson said.
Anderson, who helped the UK basketball team win a national championship in 1996 and then played for several NBA teams, threw his support behind a bill that would ban smoking in all indoor workplaces and public places in Kentucky. Twenty-three communities in the state, including Lexington and Louisville, already have such a ban. Williamsburg is the most recent.
Several hundred people crowded into the Capitol Rotunda for the rally to urge lawmakers to approve House Bill 190, sponsored by Reps. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, and Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville. The bill was approved by the House Health and Welfare Committee last week and now awaits action by the full House.
Anderson said passage of a statewide smoking ban would show "love for all Kentuckians," adding that he even loves University of Louisville fans.
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Dave Adkisson, who followed Anderson in the speaking rotation, said" if Derek Anderson can proclaim his love for U of L fans, Kentucky can become smoke-free."
Adkisson then repeated what Anderson whispered to him: "Until we play each other."
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, is not convinced the legislature should adopt such a ban. He has said the issue should be left up to local communities to decide.
But Westrom, who has pushed the bill for three years, said a statewide ban is badly needed. "We just have too many people to protect," she said.
Beshear, who later acknowledged that he smoked in college but quit soon afterwards, said Kentucky ranks No. 1 in the nation in smoking and lung cancer.
"Our addiction hurts productivity, jacks up health care costs and literally kills our people," he said. "Yet we've never instituted a statewide law to protect Kentuckians from secondhand smoke.
Beshear noted that more than a third of Kentuckians live in communities that have adopted smoking bans
"It's time that we extend that protection to all Kentuckians," he said.
Adkisson said smoking costs the state's economy $3.8 billion a year in health care costs and lost productivity.
"Smoking is costing employers in lost productivity, in their health insurance premiums and in their tax bills," Adkisson said. "This drain on our precious financial resources is preventable, and we need to take action now."
State Public Health Commissioner Stephanie Mayfield Gibson said smoking increases the risks of several types of cancer and worsens diseases like diabetes and asthma. She noted a UK study that showed that illnesses like asthma and heart attacks decreased after Lexington adopted a smoking ban.