Legislators and health advocates hope third time's a charm for Ky. to go smoke-free

01/09/2013 09:31 AM

Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, will try for a third time to pass a bill requiring restaurants and most workplaces in Kentucky be smoke-free and will get the biggest public push to date from a coalition of health groups.

“Contact their legislator if they are really convinced this is a problem that can be remedied with no cost to the state taxpayers but will demonstrate great health effects in the workplace, with absenteeism, within health costs across the state” Rep. Westrom said in an interview last week on Pure Politics (at 3:30).

Today, a coalition of health groups — including the American Heart Association and American Lung Association — unveiled a new print and online ad campaign outlining the benefits of a smoke-free law.

Smoking-related health problems costs $3.8 billion in medical costs and lost productivity, the Smoke-Free Kentucky Coalition said.

Westrom and Dr. Sylvia Cerel-Suhl, board president of the American Heart Association of Central Kentucky, appeared on Pure Politics last week:

Westrom’s efforts to pass a smoke-free bill the last two sessions.

So far, 24 states have approved smoke-free laws, or statewide smoking bans. And more than 30 Kentucky cities and counties have passed their own bans.

“If you have lived in Lexington, we were the first community in the state and we take it for granted. If you go somewhere else and you’re suddenly around it and it really begins to effect you, you realize what we can really take for granted in those 1/3 of communities in the state where we benefit” said Dr. Cerel-Suhl (at 6:25).

Gov. Steve Beshear, who previously said in 2011 that he would prefer cities and counties to make their own decisions on smoke-free laws, has changed his position and is more supportive now, Westrom said.

New poll numbers released by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky indicate that support for a statewide smoke-free law now stands at 59 percent — an increase from 54 percent in 2011.

When it comes to the legislature, Westrom says the vote count will look different with the large number of new members and she would like to work with them and educate the new legislators to gain their support.

“We are just tackling this one legislator at a time and we are looking forward to meeting with our new people and seeing what their exposure has been to this kind of local legislation” (at 4:00).

Jacqueline Pitts

Jacqueline Pitts is the producer of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. In addition to booking guests and pulling all of the information from the field together into a half-hour show, Jacqueline is also a regular contributor to “The Grind.” That’s a weekly segment with the cn|2 political staff to take a closer look at some of the most important, most interesting and often least talked about happenings in Kentucky politics. Jacqueline is from Nashville, but she’s a proud Western Kentucky University graduate. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqueline_cn2. She can be reached at 502-792-1114 or jacqueline.pitts@twcnews.com.

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