Tobacco heritage blocks smoking bans in rural Kentucky

“A mural showing a tobacco harvest has been on display high in
the second-floor rotunda of the Bourbon County Courthouse for
than 100
years,” Mary Meehan writes. (Herald-Leader photo) 

Bourbon County’s strong tobacco heritage is the main obstacle for proponents of a local smoking ban, and similar feelings exist in many Kentucky counties, Mary Meehan reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader in the second of a series of stories about tobacco use in Kentucky.

“At an April political forum at Bourbon County High School, cigarette
butts lined the walkway to the auditorium, although the campus is
designated smoke-free,” Meehan writes. “Onstage, candidates for city council and
magistrate were asked whether they would support a smoking ban. Some
said they had fathers or sisters who were longtime smokers who had
cancer, most said they didn’t smoke, and a few said they weren’t sure
smoking was really a health risk. Of 18 candidates, only one said he would support a smoking ban. He didn’t win in last week’s primary election.”

The forum was organized by Students Making a Change in Our Communities, a youth group advocating a smoking ban. They have helped rejuvenate efforts begun three years ago by the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Bourbon County and Cyndi Steele, health coordinator for the Bourbon County Health Department.

“Twelve of Kentucky’s 120 counties and 26 cities have enacted some type of
smoke-free ordinance,” Meehan notes. “In Kentucky, 34 percent of the population is
protected by smoke-free laws. Almost all Kentucky cities with bans are
county seats, leaving most of rural Kentucky without smoking
regulations. Efforts to enact a statewide ordinance have failed in the

“Across the country, about half the population lives
in places with smoke-free rules, said Cynthia Hallett, executive
director of the nonprofit Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. She said the
science on the dangers of smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke was
clear, as were the benefits of smoke-free laws. Kids who grow up where
smoking is banned in public places are less likely to smoke, she said.
People tend to quit when towns go smoke-free.” (Read more)

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