Health

Kentuckians’ views on a statewide smoking ban have remained virtually unchanged since 2013, with the vast majority of residents supporting the measure, a new poll shows.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll released Monday that found 66 percent of Kentucky adults favor a statewide smoke-free law, and 31 percent oppose it.

The poll was funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health, formerly the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.

Gabriela Alcalde, vice president for policy and program at the foundation, said there has been a steady increase in recent years of Kentuckians who favor a smoking ban law, which would prohibit smoking in indoor public places.

“There’s been extensive work by advocates as well as health educators,” she said.

Kentucky has the highest smoking rate in the U.S. at 30.2 percent, according to the most recent Gallup-Healthways report.

The poll found varying levels of support for a smoke-free law among smokers and non-smokers. Of Kentucky adults who have never smoked, 77 percent support a smoke-free law. Former smokers are close behind, with 69 percent supporting a smoke-free law. Current smokers show the least support for a smoke-free law at 43 percent.

Across political lines, a majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents favor a statewide smoke-free law.

But translating public support into state law may be difficult. Bills banning smoking in public indoor places throughout the state have failed in recent General Assembly sessions.

Also, Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican who took office last month, has said he doesn’t support a statewide smoking ban. In a 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.

The next legislative session begins Tuesday.

Alcalde said statewide smoke-free bills will continue to be proposed in the legislature. She also said there has been incremental implementation of smoke-free rules at the local and organizational levels.

“One of the benefits of having a statewide smoke-free law is that everyone is equally protected. With having a lot of different local jurisdictions have their own laws, if they differ, you don’t have the same types of protections for all Kentuckians,” Alcalde said.

Researchers found the largest change of opinion in eastern Kentucky, where support increased to 64 percent, up from 54 percent in 2014.

The strongest support for a smoking ban came in Lexington and Louisville, where 71 percent and 70 percent of respondents, respectively, supported the idea. Both cities have local restrictions on smoking in public indoor spaces. And the majority of people in other parts of the state also support a non-smoking policy.

The poll was conducted Sept. 17-Oct. 7. Researchers from the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati interviewed 1,608 adults throughout Kentucky by telephone.