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Report: Kentucky’s Slow Drag on Kicking the Habit

December 19, 2011

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Health advocates in Kentucky believe a statewide smoking ban is part of the answer to improving the state's national rankings in helping smokers kick the habit. The American Lung Association (ALA) says in a new report that Kentucky lags behind a number of other states in providing smoking cessation and treatment programs.

Betsy Berns Janes, director of advocacy for the ALA of Kentucky, thinks education efforts and constituent feedback to lawmakers about the benefits of a statewide smoke-free law for indoor public places are making headway.

"So, the real challenge, I think, is going to be to pass a strong bill that protects all workers in all places, without exception."

Jodi Mitchell, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, wants the state to become "quit-friendly."

"We support a comprehensive approach to tobacco cessation, including statewide smoke-free policy, affording Kentuckians the ability to breathe clean air, and we still have a long way to go for that."

In recent years, Kentucky passed legislation to fund smoking cessation benefits under its Medicaid program, but Mitchell says the recent switch to managed care has made it unclear which companies will cover which drugs and counseling services for Medicaid recipients.

"So it's important that unrestricted access be provided to the seven medications and three types of counseling services - and I want to emphasize medications and counseling - recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service."

State Representative Susan Westrom, a Lexington Democrat, plans to file a bill in the upcoming session to ban smoking in indoor public places. More than 30 local communities across Kentucky have smoke-free laws, 20 of which resemble what health advocates want to see on the state level.

Smoking-related illnesses claim the lives of 8,000 Kentuckians and cost the Medicaid program about $500 million a year.

The full report is at www.lungusa.org

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY