Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Opinion

February 10, 2014

Getting closer

This could be the year state enacts statewide smoking ban

ASHLAND — Although it is far from being a “sure thing,” there are growing indications that the 2014 Kentucky General Assembly will enact a law banning most smoking in public throughout the commonwealth.

Just a few years ago, few thought that such a far-reaching ban would ever be possible in a state where tobacco was once the major cash crop. After all, it was only 30 years ago that angry legislators threatened to withhold tax dollars to the University of Louisville for having the audacity to ban smoking in classrooms.

My how times have changed. On Thursday, the House Health and Welfare Committee approved a bill to ban most smoking in public by a rather lopsided and bipartisan vote of 10-3. Legislators who had previously been silent on the issue of smoking in public were suddenly endorsing the bill sponsored by State Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington.

“We’re saving lives,” Westrom said after the committee vote. “We’re allowing people to have clean air that’s breathable.”

To be sure, the bill has its opponents. Republican Rep. Tim Moore of Hardin said the bill encroaches on the use of a legal product. “This is too far-reaching and impacts people’s liberty and freedom,” he said.

If the bill as expected is approved by the House, Republican Sen. Julie Denton of Louisville has agreed to be the major advocate for its approval in the Senate.

Denton acknowledged the challenge of passing sweeping anti-smoking restrictions in a state that typically posts some of the nation’s highest smoking rates. “I know that it’s going to take some ‘profiles in courage’ to get some people to vote on this bill because it may not be popular to smokers back home,” Denton said in a Senate speech. 

More than 20 cities and counties, including Ashland, have approved local ordinances restricting smoking in public, and not one those ordinances has been repealed. In fact, a number of the ordinances  have been strengthened.

Gov. Steve Beshear called on legislators to enact a statewide smoking ban in his State of the Commonwealth address, and the influential Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the state’s most powerful business organization, has made approval of a statewide smoking ban a part of its legislative agenda.  When the Bowling Green City Commission rejected an ordinance restricting smoking, those who opposed it lost their re-election bids and the new majority on the commission voted to restrict smoking.

However, perhaps the strongest argument for a state law to restrict smoking is a poll that shows nearly two-thirds of the state’s residents supported such a ban. Even more than 40 percent of smokers said they would support a statewide ban.

Times have changed. People no longer want to be accosted by tobacco smoke when dining out or shopping. Even in a state that has one of the nation’s highest rates of adult smokers, people want to be free of the odor of smoke. Legislators should have the courage to approve a bill that nearly two our of every three adults support.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • By a thread

    It took some last-minute political maneuvering by State Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore and some skilled wheeling and dealing to prevent a bill important to AK Steel in Ashland from ending up on the scrapheap of the 2014 Kentucky General Assembly.

    April 23, 2014

  • Along the river

    Here’s hoping the weather will be as close to perfect as possible on the evening of May 30, as members of the Paul G. Blazer High School class of 2014 gather on the banks of Ohio River for the school’s first graduation on the river that has helped fuel this community’s economy since the time when it was known as known as Poage’s Landing.

    April 22, 2014

  • Good opportunity

    Morehead State University is using a highly successful program for outstanding high school juniors and seniors at Western Kentucky University to launch a similar program beginning in the fall of 2015 on the MSU campus.

    April 20, 2014

  • What's next?

    While virtually all cities in northeastern Kentucky provide their residents with some utility services — water and sewer, mainly, and sometimes natural gas — to the best of our knowledge, Olive Hill is the only town in the FIVCO region with its own electrical company.
     

    April 13, 2014

  • 'Waited too long'

    Lt. Garlin Murl Conner left the U.S. Army as the second-most decorated soldier during World War II, earning four Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, seven Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during 28 straight months in combat.

    April 12, 2014

  • Enact HB 3

    The National Rx Drug Abuse Summit is under way hundreds of miles from eastern Kentucky in Orlando, Fla., but the three-day conference which runs through Thursday, was organized by Operation UNITE, the eastern Kentucky anti-drug group that knows all too well the devastating impact the prescription drug epidemic continues to have on this region.

    April 11, 2014

  • State officials cease efforts to stop advance of ash borer

    Kentucky’s war against the tiny emerald ash borer responsible for already killing more than 25 million ash trees in the eastern United States has ended in surrender — by state officials, not the tiny insect.

    April 8, 2014

  • Demise of apparel industry in Kentucky continues

    The steady demise of the once thriving clothing industry in small Kentucky towns continues with the latest factory to announce it is shutting down being one of the largest: Fruit of the Loom has announced it is closing its last remaining plant in Jamestown, a move that eventually will see the elimination of more than 600 jobs in the small town near Lake Cumberland.

    April 7, 2014

  • None on ballot

    The 2014 Kentucky General Assembly considered an unusually high number of proposed amendments to the Kentucky Constitution on such issues as casino gambling, the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons and the elimination of state and local elected offices.

    April 4, 2014

  • In Your View

    Letters to the editor

    April 3, 2014