Fayette County

Smoking ban may be tightened

Smoking could be prohibited in bingo halls and all workplaces, not just ones the public has access to, if a proposal to revise Lexington's 4-year-old smoke-free law is approved.

Urban County Councilman David Stevens plans to introduce on Tuesday a smoking ban revision that would close loopholes that exempt some workplaces and private organizations and would tighten the exemption for retail tobacco stores.

The goal of the changes is “to correct evasions in the law and to extend it to workplaces to protect more people,” Stevens said.

The proposed smoking ban revision will be briefly introduced to the council's planning committee Tuesday, Stevens said. A more thorough discussion will take place at a later planning committee meeting, he said.

If approved, it would be the first revision of the city's smoke-free law since it was implemented in April 2004. The law prohibits smoking in restaurants, bars, grocery stores, coin-operated laundries and a host of other workplaces open to the public.

The biggest legal issue with the current law has been bingo halls and whether high school booster clubs that run bingo games should be considered private organizations, which are exempt from the smoking ban.

In January, a Fayette circuit judge affirmed a ruling that booster clubs, which raise money for high school athletics and extracurricular activities, met the definition of a private organization according to the current law.

Stevens wants to change the definition of a private organization so that profit-making entities, such as booster clubs, are not considered private organizations.

He also wants to increase the minimum amount of total sales that must come from selling tobacco or tobacco-related products for a business to retain its retail tobacco store designation. The proposed threshold would require that 75 percent of total sales must be from tobacco.

Currently, 50 percent of a store's total gross annual sales must come from tobacco for it to be a retail tobacco store, which means smoking is allowed inside.

Lexington would be meeting the current national standard if it extended the smoke-free law to cover all workplaces, said Ellen Hahn, director of the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy.

“When Lexington passed the law four years ago, our law was the gold standard,” Hahn said. “But now, around the country as well as Kentucky, those laws are more comprehensive than ours, meaning they cover all workplaces and have fewer exceptions.”

Another proposed revision would require all buildings owned, leased or operated by the city to go completely smoke-free.

When Lexington's law was originally approved, a state law required the city to maintain smoking rooms in government buildings. A 2006 change in state law has since given cities and counties the authority to decide whether they want to maintain smoking rooms.

Smoking in all buildings owned by the city, leased office space and the government center parking garage was prohibited shortly after the change in state law.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader