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Smoke-Free Decision Now in KY Senate's Hands

PHOTO: Laura Tarakam, who lost a son to an asthma attack, wants the Kentucky Senate to pass a statewide smoke-free law. She says while secondhand smoke was not the cause of her son's death, it can be a trigger for asthma. Photo courtesy Smoke-Free Kentucky.
PHOTO: Laura Tarakam, who lost a son to an asthma attack, wants the Kentucky Senate to pass a statewide smoke-free law. She says while secondhand smoke was not the cause of her son's death, it can be a trigger for asthma. Photo courtesy Smoke-Free Kentucky.
February 20, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Laura Tarakam has asthma and has lost one of her sons to an asthmatic attack. She wants Kentucky's Senate to do what the Kentucky House did a week ago - pass a statewide, indoor smoke-free law.

"Someone with as sensitive lungs as my family has, secondhand smoke causes a trigger," she told lawmakers. "And, you know, unfortunately seeing firsthand how quickly asthma attacks turn fatal, that trigger can be the last trigger."

Tarakam's son, Christopher Ledford, died in 2012 at age nine. She notes it was seasonal allergies that took his life, not secondhand smoke. But she says smoke bothered him, too, and her family does everything it can to avoid places where smoking is allowed. She says 13-year-old son Nicholas also has asthma.

On the same day the House passed its smoke-free bill, Sen. Julie Raque Adams of Louisville filed a similar bill, SB 189, in the Senate.

Adams, a Republican, is pushing the cost savings the law would deliver.

"I submit to you that saving taxpayer dollars is one of the most conservative things that we can do as members of the General Assembly," Adams told her Senate colleagues. "So, I hope that we can show leadership for the taxpayers of Kentucky."

According to Smoke-Free Kentucky, healthcare costs as a result of secondhand smoke exposure top $100 million annually. But several senators have voiced concerns that prohibiting smoking in workplaces and public places infringes on personal rights.

Tarakam disagrees - citing the Smoke-Free Kentucky coalition statistic that an estimated 950 Kentuckians die each year from secondhand smoke.

"There are times that I can step away from it, and there are times that I needed my inhaler and I needed to just leave," she explains.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the lead federal agency on tobacco control, smoke-free laws "can reduce the risk for heart disease and lung cancer among nonsmokers."

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY