For the second year, a bill that would ban smoking in all public places statewide will be filed and considered by the General Assembly. State Rep. Susan Westrom, left, who proposed a ban last year, outlined her plan Wednesday.
Westrom's proposal, which she presented to the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare, would ban smoking in all indoor workplaces, restaurants, bars and other public places in Kentucky.
Last week, gubernatorial candidates Democrat Steve Beshear, Republican David Williams and independent Gatewood Galbraith all said they did not feel a statewide smoking ban was necessary at this time and that bans should be handled at the local level. That's a change for Williams, who had endorsed a ban. He said he believed the General Assembly would ultimately decide the issue, but for now "the local approach seems to be working" and a governor shouldn't "intervene." Beshear said that as local bans proliferate, there will be enough support for a statewide ban.
But David Adkisson, president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, spoke to the committee in favor of a ban. "The attitude in Kentucky is changing toward smoking and the health effects can no longer be ignored," he said. "The business community now sees the effects of both smoking and secondhand smoke on our workforces in terms of absenteeism and lost productivity. ... Smoking is not only killing us, it is bankrupting us — both in terms of costs to business and cost of government."
"The momentum at the local level has created a growing demand for a statewide smoke-free law," added Amy Barkley, chair of the Smoke-Free Kentucky Campaign. "We know from experience here in Kentucky and across the nation that smoke-free laws are good for health, good for business, and essential to protecting citizens and workers form the proven hazards of secondhand smoke."
Last year's bill never got a committee hearing, but advocates said hopes were never high that it would pass. They said the time was right to introduce the idea to the General Assembly and educate legislators about the importance of a comprehensive law that would protect all employees, including restaurant and nightclub workers, from second-hand smoke. "Here's what's important: We don't want to settle for a half-baked law," Barkley said. (Read more)