3 in 5 Kentucky adults favor a statewide smoking ban, according to an independent poll that may have oversampled smokers

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

Kentuckians now favor a statewide smoking ban by a margin of 3 to 2, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll conducted last fall for the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. Interestingly, 38 percent of the Kentucky adults polled said they were smokers, much more than the 29 percent found by a year-long federal survey. Among those identified as smokers, 37 percent favored such a law, while it was favored by 68 percent of former smokers and 75 percent of those who said they had never smoked.

Overall, 59 percent of those polled said they supported a state law that would prohibit smoking in most public places, including workplaces, public buildings, offices, restaurants and bars, while 38 percent said they opposed it and 4 percent said they had no opinion. The figures showed a 5-point shift toward support since the last poll, in 2011. The gain was among smokers and former smokers.

Support for the law was higher among registered voters than non-voters, perhaps a consideration for legislators considering the proposal. Among voters, 62 percent favored it while 36 percent opposed it. Only 50 percent of nonvoters supported it. Support was slightly higher among Republicans (64 percent) than among Democrats (59 percent; only 44 percent of independents, who comprise about 7 percent of Kentucky voters, said they supported it. The poll also found that support for the law increases as age and income increase.

As for the apparent oversampling of smokers, pollster Eric Rademacher said self-reporting of such habits is known to vary according to time, and the differences in his poll and the federal survey “are likely due to the different time frames in which they were conducted and the different methodology employed by each study.” He added, “For example, a person who regularly smokes might openly disclose that information at one point in the year. However, at another point in the year, that same person might be directly exposed to news or advertising that paints smoking in a negative light from a societal perspective. Hearing that information could make the person more reluctant to discuss their smoking behavior with researchers soon after they have seen or heard it.”

Rademacher is co-director of the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati, which did the poll for the foundation and the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati. A random sample of 1,680 adults from throughout Kentucky was interviewed by telephone from Sept. 20 to Oct. 14. This included 1,360 landline interviews and 320 interviews with cell phone users. In 19 of 20 cases, each statewide figure will be accurate to plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. Smaller samples, such as those of smokers and non-smokers, have larger margins of error. There are other sources of variation inherent in public opinion studies, such as non-response, question wording, or context effects that can introduce error or bias. For a copy of the poll’s full questionnaire and guidance to interviewers, click here. For more information, go to www.healthy-ky.org
or www.healthfoundation.org/kentucky-health-issues-poll.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky noted the health implications that a smoke-free law would address: “Secondhand smoke poses serious health risks. Smoke-free environments are the only way to fully protect nonsmokers from these hazards. To reduce these risks, many Kentucky communities have adopted smoke-free policies. On Jan. 1, 2013, Hopkinsville became the 22nd municipality in Kentucky to implement a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance or regulation,” bringing to 34 percent the share of Kentuckians who live in jurisdictions covered by comprehensive smoke-free ordinances or health-department regulations. For a list of the communities and percentages, and those with bans that are less than comprehensive, from the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy, click here.

Kentucky Health News is a service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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