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By Kevin Hudson | @kykernel
A statewide ban on smoking in public places and enclosed workplaces was proposed by a legislative committee in Frankfort on Feb. 7.
If signed into law, the ban would essentially extend the smoking ban that currently exists in Lexington and several other cities in Kentucky to cover the entire state.
Statewide smoking bans have been proposed for Kentucky in the past few years, but none have been passed. Former UK and NBA basketball player Derek Anderson spoke out in support of the bill in Frankfort Thursday.
Kentucky is one of only 13 states that has no statewide smoking ban. Though Lexington has had a smoking ban for years, nearby Nicholasville has yet to pass such a ban. Kayla James, a psychology and sociology senior from Nicholasville, says that a smoking ban “wouldn’t dramatically change Nicholasville since most businesses are already smoke free.”
Not everyone is on board with the proposed ban though.
“I find it difficult to support a ban for a product which the contents of are a very profitable agricultural industry across the state,”agricultural communications junior Laura Kathryn Strader said. “I don’t feel the ban will affect smokers aside from causing anger and frustration. However, despite that, I see it benefitting their health and wallets if they kick the habit in consequence.”
UK law professor Scott Bauries mentioned potential legal objections to the bill, saying business owners argue that a ban on smoking will likely hurt their businesses since smokers may be less likely to visit. Bauries also said that some argue smoking is an individual liberty protected by the Kentucky Constitution.
Bauries said section two of the Kentucky state constitution states, “Absolute and arbitrary power over the lives, liberty and property of freemen exists nowhere in a republic, not even in the largest majority.”
Some argue that a smoking ban would violate this clause. When asked about whether he believed such a law would be constitutional, Bauries said, “under current precedent, I believe that a statewide smoking ban would survive a constitutional challenge pretty easily … given that the costs of tobacco-related illnesses are borne in large part by taxpayers, the state would seem to have a pretty strong interest in regulating the use of tobacco.”
“Polls consistently show that the public desires control of secondhand smoke,” said Dr. F. Douglas Scutchfield, a UK professor of Public Policy & Administration. “I believe we are close to public judgment on the issue of secondhand smoke.”
“Our lung cancer rates are the highest in the nation and that is not a place that the governor, legislature or any of us in Kentucky want to be,” Scutchfield said. “Lexington is a better, safer, healthier and nicer place to live with smoking banned. Let’s make the rest of Kentucky smoke free.”
A statewide ban has been proposed twice in the past two years, yet neither bill was passed.