Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

March 13, 2014

Not this year

Bill calling for statewide smoking ban stalls in House

The Independent

ASHLAND — The confidence we expressed earlier that 2014 would be the year the Kentucky General Assembly enacts a law to impose a statewide ban on smoking in shared public spaces and places of employment has proved to be just wishful thinking.

State Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, who has led the campaign for a statewide smoking in public ban during recent sessions of the state legislature, said last week despite high public approval and Democratic leadership urging progress on the bill, it is unlikely to be taken up for a vote on the House floor this session. Westrom says it’s because of pressure from lobbying organizations and some lawmakers.

While a statewide poll revealed nearly two-thirds of Kentucky adults support a statewide ban on public smoking and the support of the influential Kentucky Chamber of Commers, the state’s largest pro-business organization, increased support for restricting smoking in public in all 120 coutnies, Westrom said it was not enough to overcome opposition from legislators from rural areas where tobacco is still is a major cash crop and from legislators who do not believe the state should unreasonably restrict the use of a  legal product.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he didn’t kill the bill but that it had been steadily losing support since being filed.

Westrom has not completely thrown in the towel on this issue in 2014. She remains hopeful companion legislation in the Senate will pass both chambers.

However, we don’t think that is likely, and even if it did make it through the Senate, it still would have to be approved by the House, which apparently lacks the votes to approve its version of the proposed law.

Most likely, Westrom will again be filing her bill for consideration by the 2015 General Assembly. Someday, we are confident Kentucky will join other states in restricting smoking in public. It just won’t be in 2014.