A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Despite student lobbying efforts, move to ban smoking fails to generate support in Grayson County


By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

The efforts to pass smoking bans in Kentucky continue on three fronts: in the General Assembly, for a statewide ban; with local governments, for city or county bans; and school boards, for campuses free of tobacco and electronic cigarettes. Students have played a role on the school front, and even with local governments.

New Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has said smoking bans should be a local issue, but hasn’t said if he would veto a ban passed by the legislature, where the Democratic-controlled House passed one narrowly last year but watched it die in the Republican-controlled Senate.

A motion for a smoking ban died for lack of a second in the Grayson County Fiscal Court meeting Friday after a group of local health-care providers, business leaders and five students from Grayson County High School spoke in favor if it (Creative Commons Photo)

A motion for a smoking ban died for lack of a second in the Grayson County Fiscal Court meeting Friday after a group of local health-care providers, business leaders and five students from Grayson County High School spoke in favor if it (Creative Commons Photo)

The opposition of Bevin and the Senate has prompted new efforts in some localities, but the latest one has fallen short, even with lobbying by high-school students. And it resulted in racial comments by a top county official.

A motion for a smoking ban died for lack of a second in the Grayson County Fiscal Court meeting Friday after a group of local health-care providers, business leaders and five students from Grayson County High School spoke in favor if it.

The effort was led by the local hospital, the Twin Lakes Regional Regional Medial Center, which formed a Population Health Committee with local industries, schools and the Kentucky Cancer Program. The committee conducted an online survey that showed strong support for a smoking ban.

“This is a major public health issue facing our communities,” hospital CEO Wayne Meriwether told The Record, a local weekly newspaper. “Everyone has the right to breathe smoke-free air at work and in public places.”

Meriwether said that with the failure of a statewide ban in the legislature last year, and the election of Bevin, “We decided to proceed on the local level. . . . It won’t cost our county a penny, but it’s something we can do to improve the health of our county.”

The Record’s story noted that adjoining Hardin County has a ban, and “Researchers say second-hand smoke is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.”

Meriwether made similar arguments at the fiscal court meeting, where the idea ran into opposition from business owners. “I have the right to choose what to do with my business,” said Winston Davis, owner of the popular Farmers Feed Mill restaurant. Others argued for the personal freedom to smoke.

Magistrate Harold Johnson made the motion for a smoking ban, saying his constituents wanted it, but it died when none of the other five magistrates would second it. They said the issue should be decided by voters in a referendum, but Meriwether and County Attorney Clay Ratley told them that state law doesn’t allow such referenda.

Judge-Executive Gary Logsdon, who recently received a double lung transplant, made his opposition clear, reports Ken Howlett of WKHG (K105) in Leitchfield. “Are we going to be a nanny county or a nanny state?” Logsdon asked. “Smoking is bad. I’ve got two lungs out of a 42-year-old; that was seven months ago. I don’t know where he come from, but Lord, I do pray for him, because I wouldn’t be here; I was dead [and] never smoked a cigarette in my life, but the good Lord takes care of us. We do ask that everybody that does smoke, and the majority does, respect us.”

Actually, there is no county in Kentucky where even 40 percent of adult residents smoke, according to KentuckyHealthFacts.org. Grayson County’s rate is 28 percent, slightly below the statewide rate of 26.5 percent, the highest in the nation.

Howlett reports, “Grayson County High School senior Tristan Deering, who had already eloquently stated his preference that a smoking ban is passed, asked magistrates, ‘If it’s not the role of government to protect people, then what is the role of government?’

“Logsdon responded to the student, ‘I’m not black and I’m not Obama, and I’m not making you do anything.’ After a period of silence, Logsdon added, ‘And I love blacks and whites; I respect blacks, but you know, I’m not Obama.’ Deering and the other students, along with their chaperones, soon exited the meeting, as other business was taken up by Fiscal Court members.”


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3 Comments

  1. sarah palmer says:

    Government should protect people from the actions of ourselves and others that might endanger our health. That’s why there’s a law to wear a seat belt when you drive, or a hard hat on a work site. You wouldn’t go into a toxic environment without a respirator and protective clothing; why should you work, shop and socialize around people who smoke anywhere they want without a thought for others’ health.

    As for the Judge Executive’s comment; I guess he didn’t like being put on the spot by a student when he didn’t have an intelligent answer.

    • _______ says:

      “Government should protect people from the actions of ourselves” Do you even realize what you’re saying? Government has NO business telling businesses what to do. If someone doesn’t like what that business is doing, they can go elsewhere. That’s the beauty of capitalism; it regulates and takes care of itself. Again, government should have no say in what someone does with their business. Nobody’s forcing anybody to go to a restaurant with smoking areas, which actually leads me to my next point…

      Why are people complaining about smoking areas to begin with? If it’s a blocked off room, how in the world is it affecting anyone?

  2. cole peterson says:

    Seat belt laws were enacted because of pressure from insurance lobbyists after legal president was established that a victim could not be held responsible for not mitigating potential damage to themselves by not wearing a seat belt. So, this isn’t government protecting you, it is corporate control of government.

    Second hand smoke is a farce. To claim it is the third preventable cause of death in America is absurd and not verifiable. Again, this is Pharma lobbyists pressuring government to push their agenda so we will buy their NRT’s, Prozac, Diuretics, Asthma medications, anti-anxieties, and whatever else smokers don’t need by self medicating with tobacco.

    As with any legislation designed to save our children or protect the people, follow the money.

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