Governor renews call for statewide smoking ban; Courier-Journal hammers on the issue with a series of articles

Pressure for passage a statewide smoking ban in the legislative session that begins Jan. 6 is increasing, with recent statements by Gov. Steve Beshear and a package of articles in Kentucky’s largest newspaper.

Bill Goodman and Gov. Steve Beshear

Beshear said on a special edition of KET‘s “One to One” Friday night and Sunday that a statewide smoke-free law would spur economic development in Kentucky by making its workforce more productive and employees’ health less a burden for employers.

“A productive workforce depends on a healthy workforce,” Beshear said. “We can’t attract business and jobs unless we show them we’ve got a healthy workforce.”

He said federal health reform “gave us an opportunity to get our people healthy” by expanding Medicaid coverage. “We’ve got all that moving in the right direction, but so much of our statistics comes out of smoking. . . . We’ve got to attack that particular cause.”

Beshear said he smoked in college and “I understand the issue, but we’ve just got to get people healthier and get them off cigarettes.” He said that is one reason he banned smoking on most state properties.

Asked what he would say to those who say smoking bans should be local issue, he said, “It’s very simple. Those health statistics are statewide. They’re horrible. This is an issue that costs you and me and every Kentuckian a whole lot of tax money,” so a ban would “be to everybody’s benefit.”

The same point was made in The Courier-Journal by editorial writer Deborah Yetter, who wrote in a column, “The financial toll in medical costs statewide is staggering — about
$1.9 billion a year. The emotional costs of disease, suffering and death
are incalculable. Yet Kentucky has failed to adopt proven
measures to cut smoking and improve health, particularly among youths. . . . It’s the
smoke-free law that appears to be getting the most traction as
supporters regroup to fight for a law in a state where nearly 1,000
people die each year from exposure to someone else’s cigarette smoke.”

The Louisville newspaper’s opinion section has been packed with smoking-ban articles lately, including op-eds from a mother who lost her son to complications from asthma, an entertainer who no longer sings due to damage to her lungs from secondhand smoke, the House sponsor of the bill, the president of the Kentucky Hospital Association, and the president of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, both of which support a smoke-free law.

The paper’s Sunday editorial noted, “In a state where more than one in four adults smoke, it’s not hard to
run into unwanted cigarette smoke unless citizens are fortunate enough
to live in one of 23 Kentucky communities that already have adopted
local smoke-free laws, including Louisville and Lexington.” But it said a smoking ban should be followed by a higher cigarette tax “and putting far more money into public education programs to help people stop smoking and keep young people from ever starting. . . . Kentucky ranks 39th in the amount of money it puts into smoking cessation and education programs.”

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