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Poll Shows Steady Support for Statewide Smoke-Free Law in KY

Support is holding firm among Kentuckians for a statewide smoke-free law, according to new polling numbers. (Greg Stotelmyer)
Support is holding firm among Kentuckians for a statewide smoke-free law, according to new polling numbers. (Greg Stotelmyer)
January 5, 2016

LOUISVILE, Ky. - A new Kentucky Health Issues poll shows two thirds of the state's adults favor a statewide smoke-free law. The General Assembly has repeatedly rejected bills that would prohibit smoking in all public places and workplaces leaving protections from secondhand smoke up to local communities.

Susan Zepeda, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, says lawmakers should take notice that support from Kentuckians is holding firm.

"I think it sends a clear signal that support for smoke-free environments isn't going away," says Zepeda. "Support is strong among Republicans and Democrats and independents."

Just over half of those polled back in 2011, 54 percent, backed a statewide smoke-free law. It spiked to to 65 percent in 2013 and remains steady in the new poll, at 66 percent. Many lawmakers opposed to a statewide law say the decision should remain at the local level, where about a third of the state's population is currently protected by smoke-free ordinances.

However, a wide-ranging coalition of health, business and education groups supports a smoke-free Kentucky. Ellen Hahn is director of the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy.

"We've got our work cut out for us, but there are a lot of people that are very passionate about this issue," Hahn says. "And they're working, both behind the scenes and right out front, to ensure that people have clean air."

Zepeda says the annual poll has tracked an uptick in support from smokers, in addition to non-smokers. In 2011, 31 percent of smokers favored a statewide law. That support is now at 43 percent. Zepeda adds it is significant that in Eastern Kentucky, the area of the state where there has been the most resistance, people are warming to the idea.

"You have to bear in mind that there are communities in Eastern Kentucky, like Prestonsburg for example, that have adopted a local smoke-free ordinance," says Zepeda. "And so, it may very well be that residents are seeing firsthand what it feels like to dine in a smoke-free environment."

Support in Eastern Kentucky is now at 64 percent, up 10 percent from the year before.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY