The Kentucky General Assembly should pass a statewide smoking ban because it could save $2 billion in Medicaid expenses over the next five years, Republican state Sen. Julie Raque Adams of Louisville said on KET's "Connections with Renee Shaw" Sunday afternoon.
Citing estimates that a smoking ban would improve Kentucky's health enough to save $2 billion in Medicaid expenses over five years, Adams said "The dollars are so great that it truly does arise to a statewide issue." (The federal government pays about 70 percent of traditional Medicaid costs.)
A smoke-free workplace bill narrowly passed the House last year but died without action in the Senate, after being sent to an unfriendly committee rather that the Health and Welfare Committee, which Adams chairs.
When Shaw observed that Kentucky's coal-like allegiance to tobacco is the hardest thing smoke-free advocates have to overcome in the legislature, Adams agreed, but said another major factor is the feeling "that this is a local issue," to be decided by local legislative bodies.
|Sen. Julie Raque Adams|
In addition to saving money, Adams said smoke-free legislation would create tax revenue because "a healthier workforce makes us more attractive to businesses [and] makes workers more productive," as well as reducing businesses' health-care costs. For those reasons, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce supports a smoking ban.
Adams said she hopes that health and business interests, including tobacco, can discuss the issue and make some progress. "I'm hoping we can have a really good conversation about Kentucky's health," she said.
Smoke-free advocates have yet to decide what compromises, if any, they are willing to make to pass the bill. Asked about that, Adams said, "There's been lot of talk about those things. I think people want something," while others "want the perfect bill."
The legislative session begins Tuesday and is scheduled to end April 12.