Health and Family Services Cabinet
More Kentucky Cities are Kicking Butts

Press Release Date:  Friday, August 11, 2006  
Contact Information:  Gwenda Bond or Beth Crace,(502) 564-6786  

A growing list of communities around the commonwealth is saying no to cigarettes and secondhand smoke exposure, enacting smoke-free policies in public areas and businesses as a way to better protect the health and welfare of employees and patrons.

To date, Lexington, Louisville, Morehead, Georgetown, Frankfort, Daviess County, Letcher County and Kentucky state government have adopted policies that prohibit smoking inside buildings, public facilities and, in some instances, on the outside campuses of facilities and public sidewalks. The cities of Ashland, Elizabethtown and Henderson are in the process of adopting similar smoke-free policies in their communities.

“We commend local governments for taking this bold step toward improving the health status of Kentuckians,” said Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Mark D. Birdwhistell. “Exposure to secondhand smoke poses a very real and serious threat to a person’s lungs and cardiovascular health. We need to do everything we can to reduce the amount of secondhand smoke exposure.”

CHFS supports smoke-free policies because they’re considered a crucial step in reducing the amount of exposure to secondhand smoke and reducing smoking rates. Last month the United States Surgeon General issued a report that concluded exposure to even small amounts of secondhand smoke poses a risk to a person’s health.

According to the Kentucky Department for Public Health, tobacco use accounts for almost 7,700 deaths a year in Kentucky and 400,000 deaths nationwide. Kentucky has the highest smoking rate in the country and the second highest prevalence of pregnant women who smoke.

“We can’t force people to quit smoking, but we can put restrictions on where people are allowed to smoke. These actions not only lessen the amount of secondhand smoke in our environment, but we believe they also  cause people to smoke less and encourage them to quit,” said Irene Centers, program manager for the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program. “We’re extremely pleased to see so many of our communities joining the smoke-free movement.”

Smoke free ordinances have proven successful across the United States, where cities like Los Angeles and New York have been smoke-free for several years. Some nations, including Ireland and Italy, also have gone entirely smoke-free.

“Opponents of smoke-free ordinances say smoking is a personal right. However, I would suggest to those elected officials contemplating similar legislation to consider – rather than a rights issue – it is a health issue,” said Kathy Carter, a Frankfort city commissioner. “I applaud the cities that took the initiative to go smoke-free and encourage others to follow their lead. Let’s make Kentucky a smoke-free state.”

State government buildings went smoke-free on Aug. 1. Additional prevention and cessation programs designed to encourage public employee wellness will continue.
The general public can get assistance to quit smoking by calling Kentucky’s Tobacco Quit Line. For help, call toll free at (800)-QUITNOW or contact the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Specialist in your local health department.