Fayette County

Residents can air opinions on tighter Fayette smoke ban

Lexington residents get their chance to weigh in on a proposal to strengthen the city's smoke-free law at a public forum Thursday night.

The proposed changes include closing loopholes that exempted some workplaces and private organizations and extending the ban to all public transportation.

The changes would prohibit smoking in bingo halls and all workplaces, not just the ones the public has access to. It also extends the law to include public transportation such as cabs and LexTran buses and waiting areas, and it tightens the exemption for retail tobacco stores by increasing the minimum sales threshold needed to allow smoking inside. Also, private clubs are redefined so that booster clubs cannot be considered private clubs.

The council will give first reading to the proposed changes Thursday, just before the start of the forum to take public input. The second and final council reading that would enact the changes is scheduled for Nov. 6.

In Kentucky and across the country, there's a national trend to go smoke-free to protect people's health, said Urban County Councilman David Stevens, who sponsored the first revision to Lexington's 4-year-old smoke-free law. "The public is behind it much more than they were in '03 and '04 (when the law was enacted), so I think it will pass."

So far, the only organized opposition to the proposed changes has come from Blue Grass Airport, which wants to keep its smoking lounges in the secure area of the airport open for its customers. The airport has four smoking rooms, three of which are past the security checkpoint.

A provision in the ordinance would ban smoking in all government buildings, forcing the closing of the airport's lounges and the employee smoking room at the Fayette County Detention Center.

The airport has contracted with the University of Kentucky and OSHA to conduct tests on the airport's air quality outside the smoking lounges. The studies have not been completed.

"Blue Grass Airport strives to be a welcoming airport for all of its customers by providing passenger amenities that meet their needs," airport executive director Michael Gobb said in a statement. "We have worked closely with environmental engineers to design and construct smoking rooms that allow the airport to accommodate travelers who smoke while still maintaining a healthy environment for non-smokers."

The proposed changes will clear up several gray areas in the current law, said Jessica Cobb, manager of environmental health and protection for the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, which enforces the smoking ban.

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.

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