Tobacco use in Kentucky remains among the highest in the nation. It’s not coincidental that we are the “Cancer Capital of the Nation,” with higher rates of cancer incidence and deaths, and the highest rate of cancers tied to smoking, than any other state in the nation.
Our work under this initiative is aimed at improving the health of Kentucky by reducing the use of tobacco products, including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes. We are also focused on preventing tobacco use by youth and reducing Kentuckians’ exposure to secondhand smoke. Foundation CEO Ben Chandler is chair of the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow, a diverse group of stakeholder groups from around the Commonwealth and across a broad spectrum of fields that have formed a statewide organization to speak with a single voice on tobacco-control issues. Among other evidence-based measures, the Foundation seeks to:
- Increase the proportion of Kentuckians covered by comprehensive smoke-free laws that protect people in all enclosed workplaces and public spaces from exposure to secondhand smoke and other tobacco product emissions.
- Raise the cost of tobacco products by increasing state excise taxes.
- Raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.
- Protect all public-school students, faculty, staff and visitors from exposure to tobacco products to helping ensure that every district passes a tobacco-free policy in accordance with the tobacco-free schools bill (HB11) by July 1, 2020.
- Enable local jurisdictions in Kentucky to pass stronger tobacco-control measures than those enacted by the state, should local elected officials choose to do so.
- Increasing public health department funding for tobacco prevention and cessation.
In 2017 and 2018 under this initiative, the Foundation:
- Created a statewide coalition – the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow – comprising health advocates, health care providers and payers, educators, businesses and the faith community to speak to policy makers with a single voice on key tobacco-related health issues.
- Advocated for a significant increase in the state excise tax on cigarettes, a strategy proven to reduce smoking, particularly among youth, pregnant moms and those living on low incomes. Although the legislature did not pass the $1/pack increase we sought, we did get 50 cents, the largest cigarette tax increase in the history of the Commonwealth. A $1/pack increase was a challenging goal in a legislative session with a majority of newly elected members committed to reducing state taxes.
- Played a key role in launching or finalizing comprehensive smoke-free indoor workplace laws in nearly a dozen Kentucky communities to protect customers, workers, visitors and guests from secondhand smoke and other tobacco-related emissions.
- Led the effort to make all city ball fields in Lexington, as well as Whitaker Bank Ballpark where the Lexington Legends play, 100 percent tobacco-free (see news release).
- Hosted a statewide conference to raise awareness and understanding of the huge spike in teen e-cigarette use.
- Released, with Kentucky Youth Advocates, an infographic revealing the results of focus groups with Kentucky teens in five high schools throughout the state, and revealing that Kentucky youth e-cig patterns appear to be mirroring the spike in national teen usage.