City's successful smoking ban leading the way
IT'S GREAT TO BE SMOKE-FREE; LET'S KEEP IT THAT WAY
Congratulations, Lexington. Our Central Kentucky home has set the bar for effective clean indoor air laws. After a year on the books, the city's clean air law has had great support from just about everyone.
In fact, other cities in Kentucky are already working to enact similar laws based on Lexington's successful model.
Since enacted, compliance with the ordinance has been outstanding. In fact, our community has one of the highest clean-air-compliance figures in the nation. But because the media are drawn to stories that include controversy and conflict, it makes news only when someone challenges the law.
The real news is how much better off Lexington is now that smoking is prohibited in restaurants, bars and workplaces.
Unfortunately, a few isolated non-compliant businesses have muddied the perception that this law is good for Lexington and great for protecting public health. In spite of this, based on a recent poll, public support of the ordinance has grown to 64 percent.
The serious health risks posed by breathing tobacco smoke are irrefutable. The bottom line is that as a smoker, you have the choice whether to poison your body with the chemicals and toxins contained in cigarettes. While many health professionals, including me, would strongly advocate against this habit, we can ultimately do nothing to stop people from smoking.
We do have the power, as a community, to demand that tobacco smoke not threaten public health.
The facts aren't going to change. Evidence showing the health threat posed by tobacco smoke will only become stronger as each new study is conducted.
Secondhand smoke has been proven to cause heart disease (35,000 to 40,000 deaths annually), lung cancer (3,000 deaths a year), emphysema, lung disease and an untold number of respiratory infections -- all in non-smokers.
The city's work force has benefited most from this progressive law. Bar and restaurant employees are no longer subjected to the dangers of secondhand tobacco smoke. Workers in the hospitality industry have a 50 percent greater risk of dying of lung cancer than the general population.
Secondhand tobacco smoke puts non-smokers -- especially children and the elderly -- at great risk, and its cost burden to our health care system is growing out of control.
The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids estimates that because more than 30 percent of Kentuckians smoke, Kentucky is spending an additional $1.17 billion every year in health care costs.
By passing this ordinance, the Urban County Council established our city as the model for healthful living. Urge your council representative to keep Lexington smoke-free.