Proposed ban on smoking seen as attack on growers
A ban on smoking in public places in Fayette County would hurt local growers and the local economy, tobacco supporters warned yesterday.
While the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association has no formal position on the Fayette proposal, the group would generally oppose any action that threatens tobacco demand, said Scott Alt-hauser, a vice president.
"Any time you reduce the amount of smoking, it directly affects the grower," he said. "Less cigarettes sold means less tobacco grown."
Fayette County is the fifth largest tobacco producer in the state of Kentucky, said Nick Carter, an agriculture and natural resources agent for the Fayette County cooperative extension service. In 2001, Fayette farmers sold about 6.4 million pounds and generated more than $12.6 million in revenue. About 745 local farms grow tobacco.
"Tobacco certainly plays a critical role in keeping the farmers on the farm," Carter said. And a ban on smoking in public places "can only add to making it tougher on the tobacco farmer to survive."
Kentucky's reliance on tobacco has traditionally made the state resistant to legislation that threatens the crop, said Sylvia Lovely, executive director of the Kentucky League of Cities.
"It's not like there's that old dependence on 'King Tobacco' anymore, but it's still an important part of the economy of our state," she said. "Tobacco put a lot of kids through college. People will say if you try to mess with smoking, you're messing with the crop."