Friday, April 20, 2018

Oldham County adds e-cigarettes to smoking ban, partly at the behest of students, and drops exemptions, including break rooms

Oldham County has expanded its anti-smoking ordinance that it passed in 2006, the second jurisdiction to do so this month.

The Oldham County Fiscal Court voted 7 to 1 on April 17 to add electronic cigarettes to the ban and to remove exemptions that had left some workers unprotected from second-hand smoke, Kentucky Youth Advocates reports. On April 10, Paducah expanded its ban to electronic cigarettes and private places of employment.

The county's new ordinance removed exemptions to independently ventilated rooms in hospitals, hospice or nursing homes, facilities operated by private organizations, designated hotel and motel rooms, retail tobacco stores and designated indoor smoking areas.

The change was prompted partly by Youth Linking Oldham County, "a new collective of high-schoolers advocating for healthier lifestyles and a shift in social norms," Oldham Era Editor Amanda Manning reported in March, when the ordinance had first reading. "They said that the JUUL, a vaping device that looks similar to a flash drive, is popular among students."

Smoke-shop manager Cathleen McCarthy demonstrates the
JUUL device. (Photo by Suzanne Kreiter, The Boston Globe)
“It’s becoming a really big thing in our high school,” student Ava Schumacher said. “They were originally made to get people to stop smoking, but kids our age find them appealing because they come in different flavors.”

"The new ordinance also removes an exemption that allowed for smoking breakrooms in the workplace," Manning reports. Liz Burrows, health educator at the Oldham County Health Department, told the Fiscal Court, “We know based on science that those break rooms are not effective.”

The statewide Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow praised the Fiscal Court, health department and advocates who led the effort for the stronger protections.

"Strengthening this law -- by removing exemptions that left some workers unprotected and by including e-cigarettes -- recognizes that everyone has the right to breathe clean air," the coalition said in a statement. "Doing so recognizes that comprehensive smoke-free workplace ordinances improve health, and save health care dollars.And it recognizes that no one should have to choose between their lives, and their livelihood.

"Including e-cigarettes among the tobacco products that must be taken outside will keep the air in indoor public spaces and enclosed workplaces free of the toxic aerosol and pollution emitted by these devices. Oldham County is one of 21 Kentucky jurisdictions that has protected workers from these emissions, which can cause lung cancer and contribute to heart disease."

Oldham County is the fifth county in the state to pass a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance, the Oldham Era reports.

The coalition comprises more than 155 groups who support efforts to decrease smoking in the state. Kentucky's smoking rate is second only to West Virginia's, and tobacco is the broadest cause of Kentucky's most serious health problems.

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