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I encourage those interested in the health of their communities to urge Kentucky lawmakers to support legislation making all public and work places 100 percent smoke-free.
Thankfully, Somerset has already passed such an ordinance, and the community enjoys better health because of it. But efforts have been underway to pass a statewide law as well, and such a law would allow the commonwealth to catch up with the 25 other states that have passed the common-sense measure. In addition to yielding immediate public health benefits, it would send a positive message to potential business, industry and tourists who might want to bring their economic assets to us.
It would also allow us to reconcile what we do with what we know. What we know is that nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke in public places or at work significantly increase their risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory illnesses. But so far, as a state, we haven’t done nearly enough to address these risks.
While I appreciate that ownership of personal property brings with it many rights, I also see that those rights have to be re-examined when that property is opened to the public or to employees. New responsibilities regarding safety and health then take hold.
Anyone who supports the idea of statewide legislation recognizes Kentucky’s tobacco heritage and that there are still many farmers who depend on tobacco to pay bills. The statewide law being proposed does not ban the growing or use of tobacco. It would only eliminate smoking inside public and work places, places where many non-smokers have to be at one time or another – for example, workers who might not have the flexibility or skills to pick and choose their workplace, or children who have no choice but to go where their parents go to dine or shop.
In many ways, as Kentucky goes, so go our local communities, and passing a statewide smoke-free ordinance offers only positives for all of us.