In January, a bill was introduced by the Kentucky House Health and Wellness Committee to ban smoking in public places and workplaces. Unfortunately in April, the Kentucky House of Representatives decided not to bring this bill to a vote.
Furthermore, in Northern Kentucky, Campbell County voted in favor of a smoking ban, but a newly elected court overturned that vote.
May 31 is designated as World No Tobacco Day to remind the public about the dangers of smoking. Despite public awareness efforts about smoking and its consequences, Kentucky has the highest smoking rate in the country at 29 percent, according to a recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
Anti-smoking ads that feature disturbing images of former smokers often appear all over the television, yet 28.4 percent of the United States population still uses tobacco products.
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Those statistics remain startling given the fact that smoking and chewing tobacco have profound, life-altering effects on one's health.
Smoking poses numerous complications when it comes to oral health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent National Health Interview Survey, current smokers were almost one and one-half times as likely as former smokers and more than two times as likely as "never smokers" to have had three or more oral health problems. Tobacco users also have a higher risk of developing oral cancer, periodontal disease and dental decay.
There will be more than 40,000 newly diagnosed oral cancer patients and more than 7,800 will lose their battle this year and, based on the latest data from the National Cancer Institute, oral cancer continues to be on the rise in Kentucky.
Of those newly diagnosed cases, 80 percent of those patients used a tobacco product. The risk of developing oral cancer increases with the amount smoked or chewed and the duration of the habit. In addition, according to a recent study by Delta Dental's Research and Data Institute, oral cancers may be the most costly cancer in the nation to treat.
Kentucky should follow the lead of the 22 states that have implemented a statewide smoke-free law. Currently, there are 35 communities and three counties in Kentucky that are smoke free, including Fayette, Jefferson and Madison counties. Kentucky government workers are able to breathe a little easier since government offices and common areas went smoke free in 2006.
But, there's still progress to be made.
There is public support for a statewide ban. According to a poll conducted by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, 54 percent of Kentucky residents support going smoke free in restaurants, bars and workplaces.
Delta Dental of Kentucky supports World No Tobacco Day and a statewide smoking ban.
I encourage those who also support the ban to reach out to their senators and representatives. Urging our legislators to ban all smoking in public places and places of employment is an important step in the fight against oral cancer and improving the oral health of Kentucky residents.