Here in Kentucky, our overall health isn’t very good. That statement likely doesn’t come as a surprise for anyone reading this, but there are some public policy changes we can implement in our commonwealth to help turn things around. A smoke-free law is a good place to start.
In 2013, according to an annual report ranking the overall health of each state, Kentucky fell in at No. 45 on the list, with challenges listed such as high rates of smoking. In fact, Kentucky ranked dead last in that specific category. Here in the Bluegrass State, we smoke more than any other state in the nation. And what does that cost us in terms of health?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people died from smoking-related illnesses in 2010 than any other state, with a mortality rate of 370 people per 100,000. The national average was 248. Kentucky also ranked dead last in the rate of youth-aged smoking, according to the CDC.
We believe as long as tobacco are products are legal, despite their negative health consequences, adults should have the right to use them. But that doesn’t mean they should be allowed to expose others to second-hand smoke in public places like restaurants or in places of employment.
Second-hand smoke is listed as a known human carcinogen by the federal government, and has been linked to lung cancer. The American Cancer Society also notes there is evidence linking it to other diseases, such as heart disease and asthma.
These are things we know, and yet our state legislature has remained unwilling to issue basic protections to non-smokers in the form of a statewide smoke-free law. Bills have been filed in the past few years to no avail. Another bill will be filed in the upcoming 2014 session of the General Assembly, and it’s one we hope our lawmakers will take a good look at.
Perhaps when making their decision they can look at local ordinances in places like Lexington, which went smoke free a decade ago. And despite the naysayers who claim businesses like bars and restaurants will be hurt by such a law, Lexington is not feeling any ill effects. And neither are places like Prestonsburg here in Eastern Kentucky, where a smoke-free law was enacted just a few years ago.
But the fact remains that local ordinances are simply not going to solve the problem, because too many local governments will never approve them. We doubt either of the current administrations in Hazard, Vicco, or Perry County would favor a local smoke-free ordinance, despite the obvious benefits one would pose.
So, it will be up to our state legislature to tackle this issue and find the political courage to support the right of Kentuckians to breathe clean air. It is the right thing to do, and we urge our legislators to take a serious look at this issue and do what’s right for Kentucky.
— The Hazard Herald