Smoking Bans

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Smoking bans can, and often are, voluntarily implemented by private businesses. However, the term usually refers to government imposed prohibitions of smoking in public spaces, including on privately owned property frequented by the public. These prohibitions frequently are in the form of criminal laws and occupational safety and health regulations.

Nearly 20 communities throughout the commonwealth already have some kind of government-imposed smoking ban. See "Smoking Bans in Kentucky Communities" (below) for communities with bans. In addition to several cities, at least four counties have enacted countywide ordinances: Daviess, Letcher, Madison and Oldham.

Some assume that all non-smokers are for a smoking ban. But that is not true. Many Kentuckians who prefer the non-smoking section believe smokers should have a smoking section as well. Click here to read more in an article called "Chamber should 'butt' out of smoking-ban issue" by Jim Waters of the Bluegrass Institute.

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Smoking Bans in Kentucky Communities

Proposed Bans

A statewide smoking ban was proposed by Republican David Williams on Jan. 12, 2009, here on the KET show Kentucky Tonight.

As the state's most powerful Republican lawmaker, Williams' public statement of support, urging Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear to support a ban, sent shock waves throughout the state. Still, the issue has not been a high legislative priority for Williams. The most vocal proponent of government-imposed smoking bans in public places, including on private property frequented by the public, is Ellen Hahn, director of the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy at the University of Kentucky.

Recently, Hahn renewed a call for a statewide ban while speaking at the Bowling Green Noon Rotary Club. The Bluegrass Institute's Jim Waters was asked to respond to Hahn's comments. Western's Public Radio did fair-and-balanced coverage of the debate in this four-minute audio story.

Despite strong support from Hahn and other smoking-ban proponents, the Bowling Green City Commission voted 3-2 in August 2007 against a measure to ban smoking in public places. Instead, the commission passed a compromise offered by then-Commissioner and Western Kentucky University economics professor Brian Strow, Ph.D.,that banned smoking in all publicly owned places in the city, including city hall and the parks (although an exemption is made for certain events that occur in the parks). Strow's crafty political move largely defused the issue as smoking-ban proponents were forced to support his measure or find themselves in the unenviable position of not only opposing a ban on smoking but also showing an overt lack of respect for the private-property rights of local restaurant and bar owners.

Bowling Green Mayor Elaine Walker, who has consistently supported comprehensive bans, has said she would like to see the issue raised again this year. Votes on the issue could also occur in Somerset, Kentucky, London, Kentucky, Glasgow, Kentucky and Campbellsville, Kentucky.[1]

However, a statewide ban would render meaningless decisions made by local communities, particularly those who have rejected proposed bans.

Government-imposed smoking bans: Unhealthy public policy

Ten reason why smoking bans are a bad idea:

1. Smoking is a legal activity. Cigarette.jpg

  • Government has no right to treat it as an illegal activity.
  • Why don't smoking-ban proponents advocate for making tobacco products and smoking illegal?

2. They threaten private-property rights and individual freedom.

  • "Use is an essential attribute of ownership." - Kentucky Supreme Court Justice William Graves, 1996-2006

3. It uses the force of government in an improper manner. George Washington.jpg

  • "Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is force. Like fire, it can be a dangerous servant or a fearful master." - George Washington
  • What's next - Big Macs? Whoppers?

4. The marketplace does a better job of implementing smoking bans.

  • Businesses are forced to respond to the marketplace or risk closing their doors. Either way, we have healthier air to breathe.
  • The impatience of smoking-ban proponents is not reason enough to surrender our freedoms.White flag of surrender.jpg

5. Customers and workers have a choice.

  • The number of restaurants going smoke-free - voluntarily - has continued to grow.

6. They threaten the rights and freedoms of minorities.Statue of liberty.jpg

  • "If every poll ever taken from now until eternity indicates overwhelming support for government-imposed smoking bans on private-property owners, government still doesn't have the right to circumvent the constitutional liberties and protections afforded private-property owners." - Jim Waters, Bluegrass Institute
  • If public policies are determined by majority rule, what need would exist for the constitution?

7. They tend to result in a one-size-fits-all policy that ignores differences in communities.

  • Example: Bowling Green's new policy bans smoking in publicly owned places without threatening private-property rights.

8. They ignore less-intrusive options.

  • Require businesses to post their smoking policies in public places. Then customers can decide whether they want to dine inside.No smoking sign.jpg

9. They divide communities.

  • Smoking rates can be reduced without dividing communities, eroding individual liberty or assailing private-property rights.

10. Education is a better way.

  • Smoking was at a peak around 1945. But smoking rates have dropped by more than 50 percent since then.
  • Smoking-ban utopianists will tell you:
    • Smoking causes 90 percent of lung cancers. Yet in the U.S. alone in 2006, nearly 180,000 people were diagnosed, compared to only 50,000 in 1950.
    • "Never before have so many Americans been diagnosed with lung cancer. Never before in modern history have Americans smoked so few cigarettes." - Soren Hojberg
  • Teen smoking rates are dropping in Kentucky.
  • Ample proof exists that Kentuckians are responding to good information about their health.
    • A good example: Lungs.jpg

Articles About Smoking Bans

Smoking bans cloud free market`s ability to thrive

Advocates of Smoking Bans lack Sensible Solutions

A truce in the smoking wars

Redeeming qualities offer Kentuckians some freedom

Institute opposes statewide smoking ban (audio)

Chief smoking nanny wants 'millions’ to enforce ‘totally comprehensive' ban (audio)

Research on Second Hand Smoke

In an effort to institute smoke free policy, has the tobacco control movement misconstrued the information regarding the effects of second hand smoke? Michael Siegel, of Boston University, argues that while chronic exposure to second hand smoke can have negative health effects, research about acute exposure is being misused by anti-tobacco groups to promote smoking bans. Click here to read his research.

Geoffrey Kabat, though a supporter of smoking bans, shows how some evidence about the decline of health problems in communities with smoking bans may be false. He uses the smoking ban in Helena, Montana as an example. Click here to read the full article.

Supporters of Smoking Bans

  • Dr. Ellen Hahn is the leading proponent for smoking bans across the commonwealth of Kentucky.