Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Support for statewide smoking ban rises to 71%

Seventy-one percent of Kentucky adults favor a statewide smoking ban, up 17 percentage points since the Kentucky Health Issues Poll began asking the question in 2011.

Opposition to such a smoke-free law fell six points in 2016 alone, from 31 percent to 25 percent.

The proposal received bipartisan support, with 76 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of independents reporting they favored it. Former smokers also showed support in strong numbers, although nonsmoker support was the highest at 85 percent, according to a news release from the Foundation for a Health Kentucky, which sponsors the poll with Interact for Health of Cincinnati. But two of every five smokers also favored it.

"The fact that 41 percent of current smokers see the value in a statewide smoke-free law may mean that the messages about the dangers of second-hand smoke are getting through," foundation President and CEO Ben Chandler said in the release.

Local anti-smoking ordinances protect about one in three Kentuckians from exposure to second-hand smoke, according to the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy, and about half of Kentucky children are protected by smoke-free policies in school buildings. In 2011, 27 communities had passed smoke-free ordinances. To date, 46 cities and counties have enacted such ordinances, according to a news release. Nationally, 27 states and the District of Columbia have enacted smoke-free laws.

Comprehensive smoke-free laws prohibit smoking in most public places, including workplaces, public buildings, offices, restaurants and bars.

Most adults in every region of Kentucky favor such a law, the poll found. The strongest support, 82 percent, is in the Bluegrass region. Lexington was the first city in the state to enact a smoke-free law.

"The single most effective thing we can do to improve Kentucky's health is to reduce our smoking rates," Chandler said. And the most efficient way to do that is to enact smoke-free laws, which also protect nonsmokers from tobacco smoke."

He noted that Kentucky has the nation's highest smoking rate among adults, 26 percent. "Not coincidentally, we die at a higher rate from cancer than any other state," Chandler said. "We also have some of the highest rates of heart-disease mortality, COPD and asthma."

The state House passed a statewide smoking ban in 2015, but its takeover by Republicans after the election of a Republican governor has dimmed prospects for such a law. Gov. Matt Bevin has said it is a matter for local governments, not the state.

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