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No butts: It's time for a smoke-free law in Kentucky

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By Stephen Lega

Smoke-Free Kentucky is making another push for a law to prohibit smoking in indoor workplaces, including restaurants and bars. This time, I should hope the legislation will pass and Governor Steve Beshear will sign it.
By now, we’ve heard the arguments against the law - tobacco is a legal product, businesses should be allowed to decide if they will or won't allow smoking. We also understand why people who rely on tobacco to make a living might be concerned about this kind of law.
Lots of legal products, like alcohol and medicine, can't legally be used whenever someone wants. You can drink if you are 21, but we have laws that limit on how much you can legally consume if you want to drive. You are only supposed to use medicine if it is prescribed to you and use it as prescribed.
While people can't get secondhand drunk or "medicated," they can inhale secondhand smoke, which is unhealthy.
People exposed to secondhand smoke face increased risks for lung and heart disease and cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to experience sudden infant death syndrome, asthma and infections like bronchitis and pneumonia. I could spout statistics, but you get the point: Secondhand smoke is bad for anyone exposed to it.
Employees in restaurants and bars, among other places, should not be asked to choose between working in an unhealthy environment or having a job. It's easy to say, "They don't have to work there," but that's minimizing the issue. We won't get into the reasons, but not everyone has unlimited options about where they can work.
We also know that businesses can decide to be smoke-free - and I wish more of them would - but I also don't think it's unreasonable for a dining establishment to do something that requires a healthier environment.
All of us expect restaurants to store and prepare their food at the proper temperatures, and we expect restaurants to meet cleanliness requirements. So why do we accept smoke wafting over our food after its been prepared? Anyone who's eaten in a "nonsmoking" area knows that the smoke doesn't stop at the imaginary boundary.
Financially, being smoke-free is unlikely to hurt restaurants (and it may actually help business). Bardstown, Campbellsville and Danville have smoke-free laws, and I’m not aware of any of their restaurants that have closed because patrons can't smoke.
As far as people who make a living in some way from tobacco, people can still smoke if this law passes. Smokers will still smoke in their homes and outside, although I hope they would agree that they would be healthier if they either quit or smoked less.
I would be remiss if we didn't point out that state government buildings are already smoke-free, which suggests that state officials already recognize the health benefits of such a policy.
During the 2015 General Assembly, the legislature, including State Senator Jimmy Higdon and State Representative Terry Mills, should pass a smoke-free law. If you agree, please call the legislative message line at 1-800-372-7181 to let our legislators know how you feel.