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Lexington now has fewer places to smoke

Starting Friday, Blue Grass Airport, bingo halls, public transportation and all workplaces, not just the ones open to the public, join the list of places in which smoking is prohibited in Lexington.

The new restrictions are part of a host of changes to the city's 4-year-old smoke-free law that were approved by the Urban County Council on Thursday.

Councilman David Stevens, the sponsor of the changes, said he was "gratified" and "thankful" the council unanimously approved the revision.

"It represents what the people in our community want," Stevens said.

The changes close loopholes that exempted some workplaces and private organizations and extend the ban to all public transportation and transportation waiting areas.

They also tighten the exemption for retail tobacco stores by increasing the minimum sales needed to allow smoking inside.

And private clubs are redefined so that booster clubs cannot be considered private clubs that can allow smoking.

Although now banned, smoking will continue in at least one bingo hall, Jackpot Bingo, said Jerry Wright, an attorney who represents booster clubs that hold fund-raisers at Jackpot Bingo on Winchester Road.

The city is unfairly targeting and selectively prosecuting booster clubs by changing the definition of a private club, he said.

If the groups are cited, the courts will decide whether the city is selectively prosecuting private clubs, Wright said.

Blue Grass Airport, which originally asked for an exemption to allow smoking in three lounges located past the security checkpoint, hasn't abandoned its request.

The airport has modified its request from three smoking lounges to two, and it plans to work with the council to request a special policy for "the traveling public who must smoke," said Steve Ruschell, the airport's attorney.

The city should not give the airport a special exception, said Ellen Hahn, director of the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy. "Everyone needs to play by the same rules."

Blue Grass needs to join the 133 airports around the country that have eliminated their smoking rooms, Hahn said.

The airport serve its customers by making nicotine replacement products, such as gum or patches, available for sale, she said.

The changes to Lexington's smoke-free law are the first since it was implemented in April 2004. The original law prohibited smoking in restaurants, bars, grocery stores, coin-operated laundries and a host of other workplaces open to the public.