ELLIOTT COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- When it comes to smoking, the state of Kentucky is the worst in the country. The Bluegrass State ranks number one in the nation in lung cancer deaths. That's why several groups are now working together to send the message that smoking can be deadly, even if you're not the one lighting up.
Researchers from the University of Kentucky College of Nursing, in partnership with Smoke Free Kentucky, conducted the first-ever indoor air quality study in Elliott and Lawrence counties. They found several businesses and restaurants contain harmful levels of secondhand smoke.
"I think we still need to get the message out that secondhand smoke is dangerous," Carol Riker said.
Researchers used this device to test the air pollution at 11 businesses in the two counties. They say the results are proof positive that even non-smokers are breathing in an unhealthy amount of secondhand smoke.
According to the study, the levels of indoor air pollution from secondhand smoke are 3.1 times higher than in Lexington after the implementation of their comprehensive law. Researchers say the level of air pollution in Elliott and Larence counties' hospitality venues was 1.6 times higher than the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for outdoor air.
"We're used to Kentucky being a tobacco-growing state and thinking oh its just a nuisance," Riker said. "But we don't realize what it's doing inside our bodies. It has toxic chemicals, cancer-causing chemicals.
It's in the air whether we see it, smell it or not."
The researchers behind the study hope the results will spur rural areas in Kentucky to pass smoking bans at restaurants and other public places, but it won't be easy. Kentucky is one of the few states left in the nation without comprehensive smoke-free workplace laws. In fact, 65 percent of the state still has no smoking ban of any kind.
For Roger Cline, the fight for a smoking ban is personal.
"My wife was a non-smoker," Cline said. "Never smoked a cigarette in her life, but she had been exposed to second-hand smoke. As a result of that, she ended up with lung cancer. When the doctor told her you have cancer, my world fell apart."
Cline hopes this study will lead to changes that prevent families like his from going through such tragedy.
"If we can save one life, or save one person from having to suffer the way my wife did ... It would be worth it," Cline said.
Only 38 communities across Kentucky have enacted smoke-free laws or regulations.