Kentucky is one step closer to enacting a statewide smoking ban after legislation sailed Thursday through the House Committee on Health and Welfare. House Bill 190, sponsored by Rep. Susan Westrom, a Democrat of Lexington, would prohibit smoking in public places and places of employment.
It's the third year the bill has been proposed, but only the second time it's been heard in committee. Gov. Steve Beshear endorsed the proposal Wednesday night in his State of the Commonwealth address.
Sylvia Suhl, of the Central Kentucky of the American Heart Association spoke at length on the bill's support from the medical community.
"The reason we're doing this is simple: No one should have to choose between their paycheck and their health," Suhl said.
Though the bill is considered have largely bipartisan support, concerns rose from some committee members.
Rep. Robert Benvenuti, a Republican of Lexington, questioned whether the bill would interfere with individual rights of the smoker. Rep. Tim Moore, a Republican of Elizabethtown, said he was torn on the ban. Moore questioned the bill's authority over smoking zones in airports and over the rights of tobacco shop proprietors.
Westrom said the bill would require that any exempted business would need to be a free-standing building which does not share a ventilation system with another building.
Westrom emphasized the impact a smoking ban could have on the Kentucky economy.
"We lose $3.8 billion to loss of production in the workplace and to healthcare," Westrom sai, "$3.8 billion and we're talking about budget problems."
Committee chair Rep. Tom Burch, a Democrat of Louisville, said that anti-smoking measures might reduce smoking overall.
"When we pass these, a lot of people are stopping or reducing the amount they smoke," he said.
With 11 yes votes and four passes, HB 190 passed favorably out of committee and now moves to the House floor.