Politics

A new poll shows growing support for a statewide ban on smoking in most public places, despite Kentucky having the highest rate of smokers in the nation.

The latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll shows 71 percent of Kentuckians support a comprehensive statewide-smoke free law compared to 66 percent over the last two years.

Ben Chandler, president and CEO of Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, says such a law would help reduce second-hand smoke and discourage young people from becoming smokers.

“When people don’t see smoking as much, they’re not likely to do it and where we have to stop the smoking is with young people,” Chandler says. “Those are the people who are the most influenced by these things.”

According to the University of Kentucky’s Center for Smoke-free Policy, about a third of the state’s population is currently covered by local smoke-free ordinances that ban smoking in workplaces, public buildings, offices and restaurants.

The Kentucky House passed a statewide smoking ban in 2015 but the legislation wasn’t taken up by the Senate that year. In 2016, the bill died in committee and the legislation didn’t surface during this year’s session.

Chandler says he hopes the poll will begin building momentum for the ban in the 2018 session.

“I hate to use the word silent majority, but there are a whole lot of people out there who think that we ought to do something about this,” Chandler says.

This year, the state Senate approved legislation that would have banned use of all tobacco products on school grounds, but it was never taken up in the House.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 26 percent of adult Kentuckians smoke — the highest rate in the nation.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.