Smoke-Free Advocates Claim Momentum
It was eight years ago this month that the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld Lexington’s smoking ban which had passed the previous July as the state’s first smoke-free law. Now, nearly a decade later, anti-smoking advocates say the momentum for a statewide smoking ban is intensifying and they are in a “full court press.” Legislation for a statewide smoke-free law made it out of a House committee for the first time ever in the Kentucky General Assembly last month, but the idea was not pushed to a vote in the full House. "I had a number of rural legislators that still weren't completely sold on the issue and I felt that they needed a little bit more education and a little more communication with their constituents,” said Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, the bill’s chief sponsor. Westrom is hoping 2013 will be the year. "The facts are in, the science is in,” Westrom said of the damage second hand smoke can do. Westrom was attending the annual awards day for smoke-free advocates Wednesday. City leaders from three southeast Kentucky towns were honored for their advocacy in passing comprehensive smoking bans. Corbin, Manchester and Somerset are the three newest additions to a list of 22 Kentucky communities which have comprehensive laws prohibiting smoking in all public places and work places, including restaurants and bars. "We praise them because you know in Kentucky it's a tough climate,” said Ellen Hahn, a UK Nursing professor who heads the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy. Another 12 cities have less restrictive laws. In all, 34 percent of Kentucky’s population resides in a region with some type of smoke-free law. Hahn says the tobacco industry is funding the fight against tougher smoking laws. “Big tobacco is still very involved, many times behind the scenes, they don't like to be right out front where people can see them,” said Hahn. “We have a lot of energy here because we believe, we know that there's nothing that kills like tobacco,” Hahn said, promising to continue the momentum toward a statewide smoking ban.