KHIP: After three years of holding steady, support for statewide smoke-free law surges to 71 percent

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After three years of holding steady at about 66 percent, support for a comprehensive statewide smoke-free law among adults queried in the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP) jumped five points over the past year to 71 percent. That’s an upsurge of 17 points since 2011, when KHIP first asked this question. Opposition to such a measure fell 6 points in just the last year, from 31 percent to 25 percent, the poll found.

KHIP is an annual poll of Kentucky adults about health issues and is funded jointly by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health.

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“This is about protecting the freedom of all Kentuckians – both those who smoke and those who don’t, and including people of all ages, and at all income, education and job skills levels ─ to enjoy the health benefits of breathing smoke-free air in public and at work,” said Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky President and CEO Ben Chandler. “There is absolutely no doubt that second-hand smoke causes cancer, heart disease and stroke. It also leads to numerous health problems in children who are far too young to have ever touched a cigarette – problems such as severe asthma, respiratory and ear infections, and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. And new dangers of secondhand smoke are being identified all the time.”

Local ordinances currently protect about one in three Kentuckians from exposure to second-hand smoke, according to the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy. Only about half of Kentucky’s children are protected by smoke-free policies while they are in school buildings. Comprehensive smoke-free laws prohibit smoking in most public places, including workplaces, public buildings, offices, restaurants, and bars. According to the latest KHIP report, most adults in every region of the state favor such a law. The highest level of support (82 percent) comes from the 16-county region including Fayette, the location of Lexington, which was the first city in Kentucky to enact a smoke-free law.

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The poll also found solid bipartisan backing for the law, with 76 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of Independents saying they would be in favor. Former smokers also showed support in strong numbers, although nonsmoker support was the highest, at 85 percent.

“The fact that 41 percent of current smokers see the value in a statewide smoke-free law may mean that the messages about the dangers of second-hand smoke are getting through,” Chandler said. In 2011, when the Foundation first started asking this question, only 31 percent of people who smoked at that time said they would favor such a law. At that time, 27 communities had been able to pass such laws, but today, 46 cities and counties have enacted smoke-free ordinances.

Across the nation, the District of Columbia and 27 states have enacted laws that provide for smoke-free indoor air in workplaces, restaurants and bars. Research shows that smoke-free laws are one way to reduce smoking rates; Kentucky has the highest smoking rates in the nation.

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“Not coincidentally, we die at a higher rate from cancer than any other state. We also have some of the highest rates of heart disease mortality, COPD and asthma,” Chandler said. “The single most effective thing we can do to improve Kentucky’s health is to reduce our smoking rates. And the most efficient way to do that is to enact smoke-free laws, which also protect nonsmokers from tobacco smoke. Moving forward, the Foundation will step up its efforts quite dramatically to work with communities, businesses and advocates to support those who want to go smoke-free.”

Studies show no negative economic impact from smoke-free ordinances. In fact, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce supports a statewide smoke-free law, because such laws are “proven to curb smoking rates and lower health care costs without negatively affecting business.” The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky’s campus in Louisville is tobacco-free, and the Foundation only schedules meetings and events out in the state in communities that have enacted smoke-free ordinances.

KHIP is a telephone poll of a random sample of 1,580 adults from throughout Kentucky. A copy of this KHIP report is available here. Previous KHIP reports, including the first report in which this question about a statewide smoke-free policy was asked, are available on the Foundation’s website here.

From Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky

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