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New KY Coalition Aims to Snuff Out Smoking

Kentucky's smoking rate is 62 percent higher than the national average. (Chris Vaughn/Flickr)
Kentucky's smoking rate is 62 percent higher than the national average. (Chris Vaughn/Flickr)
October 19, 2017

FRANKFORT, Ky. – A new statewide alliance says it's ready to take bold action to protect Kentuckians from the dangers associated with tobacco use.

The Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow launched in Frankfort on Wednesday with dozens of organizations and agencies, and a common goal of improving the health of people in the Commonwealth.

With Kentucky’s smoking rate 62 percent higher than the national average, coalition chair Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, says it's time for the state to move away from the nickname "Cancer Capital of America."

"We have not only the highest cancer rate, but the highest cancer mortality rate in the nation,” he points out. “These are things that have to be dealt with.

“Of course it's not just cancer, it's heart disease – it's almost every health indicator is exacerbated by smoking."

The campaign's initial goals are to work with local communities to enact smoke free ordinances, educate the public and medical providers about cessation resources, and secure $1 or more per pack increase in the state cigarette tax.

Kentucky's current cigarette tax is 43rd in the nation, at 60 cents per pack. And Chandler explains research shows raising it would lead nearly 30,000 adult smokers to quit and save many lives.

"A dollar tax increase on cigarettes, it'll keep over 23,000 kids from becoming adult smokers and prevent almost 6,000 smoking-affected pregnancies over a five-year period," he states.

Chandler adds the coalition will be working with state leaders to bring a cigarette tax increase to the General Assembly early next year.

"The session's going to be right on us very soon, so we're going to be pushing very, very hard,” Chandler says. “The timing is quite appropriate because obviously, the Commonwealth is in great need of revenue, and the tax increase will provide revenue in addition to saving lives."

It's estimated that hiking the tobacco tax would raise about $266 million in new state revenue.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY