McCreary County smoking ban fails; story on hearing offers a picture of the strong feelings, pro and con, that the idea evokes

The McCreary County Fiscal Court was unable to move forward with a vote on a smoking-ban ordinance because it lacked a motion for a second reading, Janie Slaven reports for the McCreary County Record.

The ordinance was first presented to the court by Champions/UNITE for a Drug-Free McCreary County in November, but did not get its first reading until February, on a 4-1 vote. But after a public meeting on March 12 and in the presence of a “packed courtroom,” County Judge-Executive Doug Stephens asked for a motion for a second reading, but didn’t get one.

Approximately 20 people attended the one-hour public hearing, held two hours prior to the regularly scheduled meeting, Slaven reports.

One citizen against the ordinance vowed to “campaign against everyone who votes for this.” Other opponents said that “smokers can’t be blamed for every cancer occurrence.” While others were concerned that there would be no end to the government’s involvement, alluding to the day when caffeine might be banned because of health risk, Slaven writes.

A store owner, Rick Wilson, said that “while he respects Champions’ mission, he believes the issue of smoking in businesses should be left to the business owners themselves,” expressing great concern that the ordinance also included private spaces within a business, like offices and company vehicles. Other business owners agreed with him, even while recognizing the health hazards of second-hand smoke, Slaven reports.

Advocates of the ordinance also voiced their opinions. One Champions member presented the cost burden of smoking and second-hand smoke, saying the “health effects of second-hand smoke cost $10 billion per year.”

The Lake Cumberland District Health Department’s Tracy Aaron noted that nearly 40 percent of people in the county smoke and asked the fiscal court to consider the ordinance a public-health issue affecting not only non-smoking customers but also employees. “People have to work, and it’s hard to find jobs,” she said. Upon this suggestion, citizen Albert Coffey urged her to return to her home county, Slaven reports.

Several citizens offered different solutions to an ordinance including increased community education and also a suggestion to put it on the ballot. State law does not allow that.

“For now, on both the county and state level, the issue is dead,” Slaven writes, referring to a statewide smoking ban that passed the Democrat-controlled state House but was placed in an unfavorable committee in the Senate.

Slaven also reports that the McCreary County Board of Education is expected to consider adopting a tobacco-free policy at its March 24 meeting and notes that the school district already has an indoor smoke-free policy.

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