Supporters of legislation that would prohibit smoking in Kentucky’s public places rallied in Frankfort on Wednesday alongside Kentucky Chamber officials.
Bills to prohibit smoking in indoor public places, including restaurants and bars, enjoy bipartisan support in both chambers of the Kentucky legislature. Similar measures have surfaced in several past sessions and Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Dave Adkisson sees it growing momentum.
“We think this is the year to get it across the finish line. The main goal of the business community this year is to see that the legislation gets a fair hearing in both houses of the legislature,” said Adkisson. “About two-thirds of Kentuckians support this kind of legislation. We think that will come through if it gets a fair hearing and a fair vote.”
An overwhelming majority of Chamber members surveyed support smoke-free workplaces, pointing to the $1.5 billion price tag for smoking-related health care, the loss of productivity and the adverse impact on business recruiting due to Kentucky’s high number of smokers.
House Bill 173 (HB 173), a bill that would make all of Kentucky’s indoor workplaces and public places smoke-free, passed the House Health and Welfare Committee 10-3 on Feb. 6, and has been sent to the full House for consideration.
“Passing for the fourth time in this House committee, and with a companion bill in the Senate, we expect a comprehensive, statewide law to pass this year,” said bill sponsor Representative Susan Westrom (D-Lexington). “For more than 50 years, legislators and the public have been educated and warned about the dangers of tobacco-use. The time has come to make all Kentucky workplaces and public places smoke-free.”
Westrom stated that Kentucky’s smoking rates are the highest in the country, and since many people in the Commonwealth don’t live in smoke-free communities, they are exposed to dangerous secondhand smoke on a daily basis.
Adkisson says these high rates of smoking also have an impact on economic development impact.
“If a company is considering Kentucky, they might notice it is number one in adult smoking, one of the top states in youth smoking … they might have grave misgivings about getting into a situation where their insurance premiums are going to be higher and their tax bills for medical insurance are going to be higher.”