Kentucky Hospital Association backs state smoking ban

The Kentucky Hospital Association on Thursday reiterated its support of smoke-free workplaces and public places throughout the state in hopes that 2015 will be the year that legislators pass a statewide ban on smoking in enclosed spaces.

“Kentucky hospitals have treated illnesses like asthma and heart disease as a result of secondhand smoke exposure for too long, only to send patients back out to the very job conditions where they are getting sick,” KHA president Michael Rust said. “Secondhand smoke exposure-related illnesses are completely preventable by simply asking smokers to step outside.”

Kentucky leads the nation in smoking and lung cancer. The state’s lung-cancer death rate is 46 percent higher than the national average, and nearly 1,000 Kentuckians are estimated to die each year from secondhand smoke. And all of these statistics come with a price tag.

“Smoking costs Kentucky $1.92 billion a year in health care costs, $487 million of that in Medicaid costs alone,” KHA said in a press release. “It also costs Kentucky $2.3 billion in lost productivity. Secondhand smoke exposure costs Kentucky an estimated $106 million in health care costs each year. Kentucky can no longer afford to shoulder these costs.”

Dennis Johnson, KHA board chair and president of Hardin Memorial Health, said “If Kentucky wants to improve our health and attract economic development opportunities, it must make indoor workplaces and public places smoke-free.”

Rust closed the press conference by urging calls to legislators at 1-800-372-7181. “Tell them you support a smoke-free law which would make Kentucky workplaces and public places smoke-free.”

Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, will again be the lead sponsor of the statewide smoking ban bill, according to her office.

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