Smoking Ban Changes Ignite Controversy

Madisonville, KY – Despite a strong turnout of smoking ban critics at last Wednesday's public meeting, the Hopkins County Board of Health voted 7-2 to further tighten the new law's regulations. The changes do away with the provision that allowed smoking for persons under 21 in separately ventilated areas and eliminates exemptions for retail tobacco stores, private clubs, and up to 25 percent of hotel rooms. Health Department Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Specialist Lisa Miller says although the majority of people in attendance spoke out against the ban, she's received numerous phone calls and e-mails from citizens who support it. She says the changes were necessary to promote public health.

"The majority of the board felt strongly that these revisions needed to be made. The exemptions that we had given really only protected people under the age of 21. This way, this protects the entire public."

Restaurateur Ronnie Fox attended this week's meeting. He spent more than 125 thousand dollars installing a separate ventilation system for his new restaurant in compliance with the ban's original language. He has obtained legal counsel and plans to file suit. Another lawsuit that questions the regulation's constitutionality is pending in Hopkins Circuit Court. The new provisions go into effect in mid-January.