The House sponsor of a bill that would establish a statewide smoking ban hopes to see a floor vote this week. Proponents realize the measure still faces opposition.
The legislation seeks to ban smoking inside all public buildings and places of work. Many individual communities across the Commonwealth have already enacted such smoke-free ordinances. Still, Lexington Representative Susan Westrom admits a number of her colleagues in the House remain “on the fence” regarding the bill.
She realizes it could undergo some changes on the floor. “You know whatever is amended out, our communities, if they choose to go back and include what was amended out, they can. They can make the bill stronger if that’s what they choose to do within their own communities. So, I don’t look at that as a defeat or something bad,” said Westrom.
In addition to the health benefits of reducing primary and secondary smoke, Westrom views the bill as an economic development measure. She says companies looking to locate in Kentucky want as healthy a workforce as possible to cut down on absenteeism and insurance expenses.
“Industries come in to look for a community, an environment, and if you have not got a healthy environment, that means you don’t have a healthy workplace or workforce. And why would any industry want to move into a community that isn’t, where they can’t find healthy employees and they know their costs will escalate as a result of that,” added Westrom.
Westrom says 26 states now have statewide smoking bans. In addition to the health benefits, Westrom says it’s a fiscal matter. “If we’re not gonna vote on tax reform and we’re not gonna vote for a constitutional amendment for expansion of gaming, we’ve got to do something to save the state money and this is already proven. It cost industries one point three billion dollars a year and it cost the Medicaid 473 million dollars a year for treatment for uninsured people who have smoking related and second hand related smoking illnesses,” explained Westrom.
If the measure gets out of the House, Westrom believes she has the votes among rank-and-file senators. She admits senate leaders have expressed some opposition.