A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Lexington’s first-in-state smoking ban paves the way for more than one-third of Ky. towns

More than one-third of Kentuckians are now protected by smoke-free workplace laws since Lexington became the first in the state to enact anti-smoking legislation 10 years ago.
In 2003, Lexington was not only the first in a tobacco state like Kentucky, but was also one of very few in the Midwestern and Southern United States.
Now, over half of the country has some form of smoking ban.
Lexington’s law was enacted in 2003, but challenged in courts including the state Supreme Court before its implementation in April 2004. The court ruled that it was not only the right of government to protect its citizens’ welfare, but its “manifest duty” to protect the public’s health.
Following Lexington’s lead were 37 other Kentucky communities who have passed smoke-free ordinances or Board of Health regulations. Some 23 of those are comprehensive meaning they cover all workplaces, including restaurants and bars.
In a celebration Monday, July 1, at Applebee’s Hamburg restaurant, local leaders held a brief news conference before a party that included Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, University of Kentucky public health professor and director of UK’s Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy Ellen Hahn, former Lexington vice mayor and CEO of Applebee’s franchiser Thomas and King, Georgetown Mayor Everette Varney, and Democratic state Rep. Susan Westrom (79th).

”Smoke-free Lexington was an historic moment for Kentucky given our rich pro-tobacco history and high smoking rates. Smoke-free policy changes what people expect about smoking and value about health in a community,” said Hahn.
Hahn’s Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy extensively researches the health and economic outcomes of smoke-free laws. It has found that such legislation improves air quality and workers’ health, while decreasing emergency room visits for asthma sufferers. The center also found that bans on smoking are generally supported by the public and are not hurtful to local businesses like restaurants and bars.
The center is now focusing its efforts on the state’s rural counties where it reports that communities are less likely to be ready for smoke-free policy changes or to have the resources to control tobacco in public places.
The majority of Kentucky’s 120 counties are rural and need to be trained in media advocacy and policy development, according to the center. KCSP is ready, said Hahn, to provide “culturally sensitive technical assistance” to tobacco-growing communities, as well as education and resources to help rural counties “provide leadership for policy change”.
For more information on cities and counties in Kentucky with smoke-free community-wide ordinances and regulations in Kentucky, click here.

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