More Kentuckians favor a statewide smoking ban, but leading advocacy group is still focused on persuading some localities

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

About three-fourths of adult Kentuckians said last fall that they favored a state law that would ban smoking in most public places, including workplaces, public buildings, offices, restaurants and bars.

That was a significant jump from 2018, when about two-thirds of those polled the year before. Still, the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow, the state’s umbrella anti-smoking group, remains focused on getting local anti-smoking ordinances, the group’s spokeswoman said.

“We believe that there is still some work to do at the local levels in Kentucky before we approach the legislature for a statewide law,” said Bonnie Hackbarth, vice president for external affairs at the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which acts as staff to the coalition.

The foundation says only 36 percent of Kentuckians are covered by comprehensive smoking bans, and Kentucky is one of 13 states “without any type of statewide smoke-free indoor air law.”

The foundation and Interact for Health, a Cincinnati-area foundation, fund the Kentucky Health Issues Poll, which has been surveying Kentucky adults on the issue each fall since 2011. It showed slow, steady increases to 71 percent support in 2017, then dropped to 66% in 2018. The 2019 number was 74%.

The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

The poll was taken from Oct. 16 through Dec. 6. It found that support for a statewide smoking ban was highest in the region it defines as Western Kentucky, and lowest in Eastern Kentucky. Democrats, at 80%, were slightly more likely to favor a ban; among Republicans, support was 73%; among independents, 65%.

Support didn’t vary by exposure to smoke at work. Among those who said they were exposed to smoke in their workplace (one-fourth of those polled), 77% favored a statewide law; among those not exposed, 74% supported it.

The latest poll surveyed a random sample of 1,559 adults from throughout Kentucky by telephone, 468 by landline and 1,091 by cell phone users. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. The poll asks about many issues, and releases its results over several months. The release of the smoking-ban poll was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, Hackbarth said.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky funds Kentucky Health News, which controls its own content.

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