Kentucky leads the nation in smoking, and how the state goes about addressing that distinction will rest in part with the next governor.
A handful of state legislators have pushed, in vain, in recent years to for a statewide ban on smoking in public indoor places. Critics, however, say the law would infringe on the rights of individuals.
A Kentucky Health Issues Poll released in January found that 66 percent of Kentuckians favor a statewide ban on smoking in public places.
Kentucky has the highest smoking rate in the nation at 30.2 percent, according to the most recent Gallup-Healthways report. The state also has the highest lung cancer death rate in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some cities, including Louisville and Lexington, have had public smoking bans on the books for years. But in a huge swath of the state, smoking is still allowed in restaurants, offices and other indoor public spaces.
If the General Assembly passes a statewide smoking ban in the next four years, the next governor could sign the legislation into law or veto it. So where do the candidates stand on a statewide smoking ban?
Republican candidate Matt Bevin said he doesn’t support a statewide smoking ban. In a recent Q &A with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Bevin said local communities should decide if they want smoking bans. Earlier this year, he told The Courier-Journal that business owners should determine if they will allow smoking in their establishments.
In a recent interview with WFPL News, Democratic candidate Jack Conway said he supports a statewide smoking ban in public places. He said the current smoking ban in Louisville, which prohibits smoking in public places, has had some success and that it contributes to overall health.
Independent candidate Drew Curtis said he would support a statewide smoking ban, but only with an exception for cigar bars.
“I would like the option to allow people who want to be centered around that activity to have it, and then let the rest of us get on with our lives,” Curtis said in an interview with WFPL News.
He also said the law would have to be structured properly to avoid loopholes.
(Image via Kari Söderholm/Creative Commons)