Fayette County

Attorney warns of legal action if smoking ban is tightened

If the changes to Lexington's indoor smoking are approved as proposed, the city will be taken to court because of the change to the definition of a private organization, attorney Jerry Wright told the Urban County Council Thursday.

The proposal to change the definition so that booster clubs won't be allowed to hold bingo sessions with smoking is "being done merely to attack the bingo organizations themselves," said Wright, who represents the booster clubs that hold fund-raisers at Jackpot Bingo on Winchester Road.

It is special legislation that will lead to selective prosecution, Wright said. "I can assure you that from our standpoint that if this change is made, this will be the next legal battle before the courts as it pertains to the smoking ban."

Wright was one of the 16 people who spoke during the public form. Most of the speakers were in favor of the proposed changes and spoke about the health benefits of prohibiting smoking.

Six people spoke against the proposal, but three of them were representatives of Blue Grass Airport, which wants an exemption to allow smoking in its three lounges past the security checkpoint.

The proposed changes to Lexington's smoke-free law are intended to close loopholes that exempted some workplaces and private organizations and to extend the ban to all public transportation and government buildings.

The proposal also tightens the exemption for retail tobacco stores by increasing the minimum sales threshold needed to allow smoking inside.

The council gave the proposed changes a first reading 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.

Bingo revenues will suffer and the booster clubs won't be able to pay for school activities, Wright said. "How are you going to replace this money?"

A study of 13 Kentucky counties where smoking is not allowed in bingo halls show that bingo revenues have not declined, said Lynsey Sugarman, administrator for the Mayor's Alliance on Substance Abuse and the Fayette County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy board. "There is no evidence that bingo will lose money other than the state of the economy, we're all losing money."

People will get used to not smoking while playing bingo and will come back just as they have in Georgetown after smoking was prohibited there, Sugarman said.

The results of an air quality study conducted by the University of Kentucky found that smoke leaked from three of the airport's four smoking lounges, said John Slone, Blue Grass Airport's director of planning and development.

But the air quality outside the lounges exceeded the national outdoor air quality standard only five times during the study period, Slone said. A national standard for indoor air quality does not exist.

The only smoking lounge found not to leak is the one on Concourse B, Slone said.

The airport was misleading when it tried to compare the amount of particulate matter near the lounges with the national outdoor standard, said Ellen Hahn after the forum. Hahn, who conducted the study at the airport, is the director of the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy.

The outdoor standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter is so high it's unhealthy, Hahn said. On any given day, Lexington's outdoor air quality is 11 or 12.