As Kentucky's public research universities, we often compete on the court but collaborate in the laboratory. Together, there is a great deal we are proud of — work we do as institutions for the commonwealth we serve.
But now, it's critical that we join together to fight an opponent that's bigger and more important than anything we face on the court.
The fact is that Kentucky is on the wrong side of the rankings when it comes to our health. And one of the most important reasons is because smoking rates continue to remain among the highest in the nation.
But there are common-sense solutions. Smoke-free policies that prohibit smoking in public places protect everyone from the unnecessary risk of secondhand smoke by simply preventing smokers from lighting up around others.
This will eliminate the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure in public spaces — exposure that is causing cancer, heart disease and other health problems in non-smokers.
This is why both of our university campuses are smoke-free. We have a vested interest in protecting the health of our students, faculty, staff and visitors from the risks associated with secondhand smoke exposure, namely cancer, heart disease, asthma and other breathing problems.
The health of all Kentuckians is in the best interest of our state for health and economics. The public cost of secondhand smoke exposure is estimated at more than $80 million annually in Kentucky — money that could be put to better use addressing other pressing needs, from health care to education.
Moreover, a smoke-free Kentucky has economic development benefits that may not immediately come to mind. Our institutions of higher learning produce some of the best and brightest young professionals that Kentucky has to offer. Unfortunately, our state is less successful in keeping those young people here after they have completed their education.
Increasingly, young professionals and leading companies are considering "livability" when considering where to locate their homes and businesses. Since 23 other states have smoke-free laws covering all indoor workplaces, including restaurants and bars, other states offer healthier environments for work and play.
Already, more and more Kentucky communities are passing smoke-free ordinances. These smoke-free cities are more attractive for students, young professionals, tourists and businesses looking to locate in areas with lower health care costs. Each year our universities graduate many students who are accustomed to — and expect — the health benefits associated with smoke-free cities.
Passing a statewide smoke-free law is good for health and good for business. Kentucky should adopt a smoke-free law that protects everyone's right to breathe smoke-free air.