Kentucky Smokers Unhappy as Statewide Smoking Ban Looms

BOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- At sixty years old, Hoby Anderson is truly a lifelong smoker. He tells he has been lighting up for 58 years.

Anderson said he is not happy about the proposed statewide smoking ban that passed Thursday in Kentucky's Health and Welfare Committee. The proposal comes from a group called Smoke-Free Kentucky, which aims to restrict smoking in some public places and in all workplaces.

Kentucky's smoking rates are the highest in the nation among both adults and kids at close to 25 percent. Supporters of the smoking ban cite secondhand smoke's effects on workers' health as one of the major reasons behind the proposal.

Anderson said he doesn't believe the government needs to pass a law that tells smokers where or when they may smoke. He said he thinks smokers just need to be considerate of others.

"When my grandkids come to my house, I go outside and smoke," Anderson said. "Not because [Kentucky Governor] Steve Beshear told me to do that, but because my daughters want me to do that and I respect that."

Governor Beshear discussed the need for a statewide smoking law in his State of the Commonwealth address on Wednesday.

"This isn't a rights issue," Beshear said. "People could still smoke -- just not in places where their smoke endangers the health of our workers and others."

Smoke-Free Kentucky supporters agree that the goal of the proposal is not to stop adults from using tobacco, which is legal. Instead, one priority is to stop young people from picking up the smoking habit. Above all, though, the group is focused on worker health and protection. They prefer the term "restriction" instead of "ban" and compare the regulations to those in the food service industry.

"We would like everyone who works with our food to wash their hands," Amy Jeffers, who works with Smoke-Free Kentucky, explained. "Some people might say I don't have time for that, that's an inconvenience for me, I don't want to do that. But we have those laws for the protection of everybody."

The city of Ashland has had a comprehensive smoking ban in place since 2006, but the rest of Boyd County allows smoking. Throughout eastern Kentucky, most cities and towns also allow smoking, with Ashland and Prestonsburg as the major exceptions.

Anderson said he thinks allowing smoking in restaurants and businesses should be at the discretion of the owner or landlord who pays the rent, not the government.

"You cannot smoke at Bob Evans, even in Boyd county," he said. "But who made that decision? Bob Evans made that decision."

Anderson also said some restaurants won't comply with a statewide ban, noting that "there's a restaurant in Lexington that will charge a dollar a customer to pay the fines" for smoking.

Higher taxes on tobacco products are another concern for both smokers and cigarette retailers. The strategy has been used in the past to curb smoking in the state. One business owner told those taxes could put him out of business.

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