Jumping on the Ban Wagon

CURE, Spring 2011, Volume 10, Issue 1

States jump on the smoking ban wagon.

Kentucky legislators recently put forth a bill to ban smoking statewide, joining three other states that have introduced such bills in the past few months. So far, 36 states and the District of Columbia have some form of a smoking ban, even if it’s just in the workplace. In 27 of those states, smoking in bars and restaurants is also prohibited.

On Jan. 6 legislators introduced the bill, which eliminates smoking in workplaces and public places, such as restaurants and bars. People caught smoking would be fined $100 for the first offense and $250 for the second. Business owners face steeper fines.

Kentucky’s economy has been built on tobacco. Burley tobacco, one of the ingredients in cigarettes, is still a cash crop for many farmers. Kentucky also has the highest percentage of smokers in the nation at 25.6 percent and one of the highest incidence rates for lung cancer. In the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2010 report, Kentucky, along with other states, received a failing grade in smoking prevention and cessation efforts, smoke-free air laws and cigarette tax rates.

According to the National Cancer Institute, smoking causes 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in men and around 80 percent among women. Smoking also causes several other cancers, including those in the throat, mouth, stomach and pancreas. The current bill also acknowledges “that breathing secondhand smoke is a known cause of disease and premature death in healthy nonsmokers.”

Joining Kentucky in introducing smoking-ban legislation are Mississippi and Indiana, ranked fourth and fifth respectively in the nation for percentage of smokers. Lawmakers in Texas have also put forth legislation, although various versions of the bill have been defeated in the past.

Update: In early March, Kentucky House bill HR193 failed to pass through committee. The smoking ban bill in Mississippi also failed to pass.