(LOUISVILLE, Ky – January 24, 2018) Support for a comprehensive statewide smoke-free law among adults queried in the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP) held steady after last year’s jump to 71 percent. That’s an upsurge of 17 points since 2011, when KHIP first asked this question.
“More than 50 years after the Surgeon General’s report, a third of Kentucky employees say they are still exposed to tobacco smoke in the workplace,” said Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky President and CEO Ben Chandler. “Secondhand smoke causes cancer, heart disease, stroke and other ailments detrimental to the health of Kentuckians, and new dangers of secondhand smoke are being identified all the time. It’s time that all Kentuckians are able to enjoy the health benefits of breathing smoke-free air in public buildings and at work.” The Foundation invested more than $361,000 on work to reduce both tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in 2017 and will increase that investment to more than $500,000 in 2018.
Studies show no negative economic impact from smoke-free ordinances. In fact, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce supports a statewide smoke-free law, because such laws are “proven to curb smoking rates and lower health care costs without negatively affecting business,” said Chamber CEO Dave Adkisson. The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky’s campus in Louisville is tobacco-free, and the Foundation only hosts meetings and events in communities that have enacted smoke-free ordinances.
Local ordinances currently protect only 33 percent of Kentuckians from exposure to secondhand smoke, according to the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy. Comprehensive smoke-free laws prohibit smoking in most public places, including workplaces, public buildings, offices, restaurants, and bars. According to the latest KHIP report, most adults in every region of the state favor such a law.
The poll also found solid backing for the law across all political parties, with 79 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of Independents saying they would be in favor. Former smokers also showed support in strong numbers, although nonsmoker support was the highest, at 83 percent.
“We’re very encouraged that 44 percent of current smokers see the value in a statewide smoke-free law. We know many smokers have heard the messages about the dangers of secondhand smoke, and nearly 70 percent of current smokers want to quit,” Chandler said. In 2011, when the Foundation first started asking this question, only 31 percent of people who smoked at that time said they would favor such a law.
Across the nation, the District of Columbia and 27 states have enacted laws that provide for smoke-free indoor air in workplaces, restaurants and bars. Research shows that smoke-free laws are one way to reduce smoking rates; Kentucky has one of the highest smoking rates in the nation.
“The single most effective thing we can do to improve Kentucky’s health is to reduce our smoking rates,” Chandler said. “And one of the most successful tools for doing that is to enact smoke-free laws, which also protect nonsmokers from tobacco smoke.”
Chandler chairs the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow, a diverse group of more than 140 stakeholder organizations committed to reducing tobacco use and protecting Kentuckians from the dangers of secondhand smoke. The Coalition is working to help Kentucky counties and cities enact such laws with a longer-term goal of getting a law that applies statewide.
KHIP is a telephone poll of a random sample of 1,692 adults from throughout Kentucky. A copy of this KHIP report is available here. Previous KHIP reports, including the first report in which this question about a statewide smoke-free policy was asked, are available on the Foundation’s website here.
About the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Funded by an endowment, the mission of the nonpartisan Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity. Since the Foundation opened its doors in 2001, it has invested more than $27 million in health policy research, advocacy, and demonstration project grants across the Commonwealth. Follow the Foundation on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and visit our website at www.healthy-ky.org.
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Bonnie J. Hackbarth