71% of Kentucky adults continue to support smoking ban

Seventy-one percent of Kentucky adults support a comprehensive statewide smoke-free law, the same percentage as the last time the Kentucky Health Issues Poll asked the question, in 2016. Opposition to a smoking ban rose to 27 percent from 25 percent, a change that was within the poll's error margin of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points for each number.

The poll, taken Oct. 24 to Dec. 2, found that a statewide ban still has strong bipartisan support, with 79 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Republicans saying they favored it. Support among Democrats rose by 3 percentage points from the previous poll, but dropped by 10 points among independents, to 62 percent from 72 percent.

Most adults in every region of the state favor a statewide smoke-free law. Support increased in the Louisville area to 80 percent in the most recent poll, from 74 percent in 2016 and support dropped in the Lexington area to 74 percent, from 82 percent in 2016. Those changes are within the larger error margins for subsamples. Other regions showed even less change.

Kentuckians who say they have never smoked continue to voice the greatest support for a statewide smoking ban, at 83 percent; 74 percent of former smokers favor it. Even among smokers, 44 percent say they favor such a law.

The annual poll, which is co-sponsored by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Cincinnati foundation Interact for Health, found that nearly a third of Kentucky adults said they were exposed to secondhand smoke at their workplace in the week before they were surveyed.

In a news release about the poll, Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the foundation, listed a few of the many dangers of secondhand smoke, including cancer, heart disease and stroke and called on Kentuckians to pass a comprehensive workplace smoke-free law.

"The single most effective thing we can do to improve Kentucky's health is to reduce our smoking rates," Chandler said. "And one of the most successful tools for doing that is to enact smoke-free laws, which also protect nonsmokers from tobacco smoke."

Chandler is also the chairman of the newly formed Coalition for a Smoke-free Tomorrow which has over 140 members. One of the immediate efforts of the coalition is to help counties pass local smoke-free laws, with a statewide ban part of a longer-term goal.

The Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy reports that only 33 percent of Kentuckians are protected from exposure to secondhand smoke by local smoke-free ordinances. Nationally, 27 states and the District of Columbia have enacted smoke-free laws, says the release. Almost 25 percent of Kentucky adults are smokers.

The state House passed a statewide smoking ban in 2015, but it was not called up for a vote in the Senate. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who took office in December 2015, has said this should be a local decision so it's not likely such a bill will pass while he is in office.

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