April 16, 2011 - After years of contentious debate, a northern Kentucky county will be the first in that part of the state to ban smoking in most public places come Friday, April 15th.
Each year more than 8,000 Kentuckians die of illnesses caused by tobacco use. Some die of lung cancer, while others fall victim to cardiovascular disease. Annually, Medicaid and Medicare costs exceed an estimated $1.2 billion for treatment of Kentuckians suffering smoking-related diseases and conditions. This equals $300 for each of the 4 million people living in Kentucky. (KY Department of PUblic Health Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program)
The controversial ordinance says Kenton County offices and public establishments such as restaurants, churches, bowling alleys, bingo halls and retail stores must go smoke-free, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
Private clubs and "drinking establishments" meeting certain requirements can apply for an exemption, the newspaper said.
Health advocates say comprehensive smoke-free laws are needed to protect employees and customers from the hazards of secondhand smoke, while opponents of the ban argue it infringes on the rights of businesses and property owners.
But both sides say the partial ban allowing exemptions for some, but not all public places, is confusing and will be difficult to enforce.
"We have a lot of experience with other communities, like Louisville, which eventually strengthened their ordinance to a comprehensive smoke-free law because of enforcement issues," said Ellen Hahn, director of the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy at the University of Kentucky.
"It's really a matter of everyone deserves to breathe clean air, and why do we give exemptions for some and not for others?" Hahn said. "From an enforcement standpoint, it's much easier if it's comprehensive.
Vhe Kenton County Health Department has helped by distributing tool-kits, posting sample signs and reminder cards on their website.
There will be consequences for businesses who don't comply with the new law.
"Well, as the ordinance says, the first time we find a violation, the owner will receive a warning," Dr. Lynne Saddler, Northern Kentucky Health Department, "But along with that warning we will also provide the education to help them understand what's wrong and what they have to do to fix the non-compliance with the ordinance."
More than 5,500 businesses in Kenton County will be affected by the law.
References: Kenton County businesses prepare for smoking ban by Chelsey Collins, .wxix.com, 4/7/2011, Kenton Co: Extinguish 'em if you got 'em/Written by Cindy Schroedercschroeder@nky.com news.cincinnati.com 4/13/2011.