Kentucky Supreme Court Upholds Lexington’s Smoke-Free Law And Delivers Historic Victory for Public Health

Statement of William V. Corr Statement of William V. Corr

Apr. 22 2004

Washington, DC — In an historic victory for the public’s right to breathe clean air, the Kentucky Supreme Court today ruled, 6-1, to uphold Lexington’s comprehensive smoke-free workplace ordinance, which covers all workplaces including restaurants and bars. This ruling is a tremendous victory for the health of Lexington residents and sets an example for Kentucky and the nation. Even in the heart of tobacco country, public officials can no longer ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence that secondhand smoke causes lung cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses. All of us should be able to earn a living or enjoy a night out without being exposed to the hazards of secondhand smoke. We hope today’s ruling will spur other states and communities to join the growing, bipartisan movement to protect the public’s right to breathe clean air.

Lexington’s smoke-free law is an especially welcome development for Kentucky and the health of its citizens. Kentucky has the highest smoking rate in the nation and pays a tremendous price for it. Tobacco use kills some 7,700 Kentucky residents and costs the state more than $1.1 billion in health care bills every year. Lexington’s leadership should spur other state and local leaders in Kentucky to take action to reduce tobacco’s tragic toll, including enacting smoke-free workplace laws, increasing the state’s tobacco tax and using its tobacco settlement money to properly fund a tobacco prevention program.

Lexington joins a growing number of states and communities across the country with strong smoke-free laws. Five states – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine and New York – have enacted statewide smoke-free workplace laws that cover restaurants and bars. Florida, Idaho and Utah have passed statewide smoke-free laws that exempt only stand-alone bars. A growing number of cities and counties across the country have enacted strong laws as well.

Smoke-free laws protect health. Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals and 69 known carcinogens including formaldehyde, lead, arsenic, benzene and radioactive polonium 210. A recent study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization concluded, “Nonsmokers are exposed to the same carcinogens as active smokers. Even the typical levels of passive exposure have been shown to cause lung cancer" among people who have never smoked. In addition to lung cancer, secondhand smoke is proven to cause heart disease, emphysema and other illnesses and is responsible nationally for thousands of deaths each year. Studies show that kids are especially vulnerable to other people’s smoke, suffering more respiratory problems, ear infections and asthma.

Smoke-free laws do not hurt business. Contrary to opponents’ claims, numerous studies and the experience of smoke-free states and communities consistently show that smoke-free laws do not harm sales or employment in restaurants and bars and may even have a positive impact. The latest evidence comes from New York City, where a report found that, in the year since the city’s comprehensive smoke-free law took effect March 30, 2003, business receipts for restaurants and bars have increased, employment has risen, the number of liquor licenses has increased, virtually all establishments are complying with the law, and the vast majority of New Yorkers support the law.

Smoke-free laws are good for health and good for business and should be enacted in every community and every state.

 

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