Lawmaker To Resume Push For Statewide Smoking Ban

Nov 21, 2013

State Rep. Susan Westrom promises to try again during the next legislative session to get a statewide smoke-free law passed.

Representative Susan Westrom (D) of Lexington
Representative Susan Westrom (D) of Lexington
Credit Legislative Research Commission

It will be the fourth time Westrom has filed a bill to ban smoking in Kentucky workplaces and public places, to replace the current patchwork of local ordinances in 39 communities.

Westrom stresses the impact smoking has on children is a critical point in her decision to keep pushing.

"The implications of secondhand smoke on children can begin with inner ear infections, bronchitis, asthma," she points out. "It's even been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. And once you start a child out at an early age with asthma, that's something that's going to follow them for a lifetime."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about three out of every 10 Kentucky adults smoke (28.3 percent), the highest rate in the nation.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services says nearly one in four Kentucky babies born in 2011 (23 percent) was to mothers who smoked during pregnancy.

Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, is convinced a comprehensive ban would help lessen the problem.

"Just imagine if a single action could cut down on intellectual and physical disabilities, cerebral palsy, sudden death syndrome and premature death," he says. "I mean, that sounds like almost too good of a deal, and yet that's the case in Kentucky."

Brooks notes that smoking during pregnancy contributes to low birth-weight, which leads to other health problems for infants.

A new policy brief by his organization supports the statewide smoke-free law. Opponents of the idea believe the local anti-smoking ordinances are sufficient.

Westrom says she's optimistic, and thinks 2014 is the year such a law can pass in the General Assembly.

"I really do," she adds. "We've taken our show on the road this year. We have been to every corner of the state."

Currently, 24 states have comprehensive, statewide smoke-free laws.