By: Zach Johnson
On February 13, 2015 House Bill 145 passed by a 51-46 vote in the Kentucky House of Representatives.[i] The bill referred to as “Smoke free Kentucky,” which provides criminal sanctions for those who smoke tobacco products in all places of business indoors, did not clear the Kentucky Senate.[ii] Since last year’s flop, the “Foundation for A Healthy Kentucky” released a poll showing support for a smoking ban across the State with around 66% of poll participants favoring the ban.[iii] “We've got our work cut out for us, but there are a lot of people that are very passionate about this issue,” said Ellen Hahn, director of the Kentucky Center for Smoke Free Policy, “and they're working, both behind the scenes and right out front, to ensure that people have clean air.” [iv] Key to this issue is the overall importance of clean air, when weighed against the property rights of business owners.[v]
House Bill 145 aimed to ban smoking in all places of employment including hotels, bars, and all restaurants.[vi] While some fight for clean air in all establishments, there are those Senators who are concerned with infringing on the property rights of those who own businesses. Senate President Robert Stivers of Manchester said that while he opposes the smoking, he believes government should not interfere with private enterprise.[vii] While the politicians are concerned with the rights of business owners, their constituents are increasingly warming up to the idea of a statewide ban.[viii] Susan Zepeda, President, and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky said that lawmakers should take note of the growing support for the ban stating, “I think it sends a clear signal that support for smoke-free environments isn't going away.”[ix]
The success of a future bill will likely depend on a bi-partisan effort to agree on some of the amendments suggested in the previous bill.[x] One of the proposed amendments included an option for exemption if the business is properly ventilated and listed as a smoking establishment while another proposed amendment would exempt e-cigarettes from the ban.[xi] With many of these amendments being blocked, the Republican held Senate would likely continue to favor the rights of businesses and property owners to use their property as they see fit. However, the poll is enlightening, and shows that Kentucky, ranked as the second heaviest state with 27% of adults who report smoking, might be ready to join the two-dozen or so other states that have adopted a statewide smoking ban.[xii]
[i] Tom Loftus, Smoking Ban Bill Dead for this Year, Courier-Journal (March 2, 2015), http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/ky-legislature/2015/03/02/smoking-ban-bill-dead-year/24285923/#.
[iii] Greg Stotelmyer, Poll Shows Steady Support for Statewide Smoke-Free Law in KY, Public News Service – KY (Jan. 2016), http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2016-01-05/smoking-prevention/poll-shows-steady-support-for-statewide-smoke-free-law-in-ky/a49654-1.
[v] Press Release, Kentucky Legislature, Smoking Ban Bill Clears House Hurdle (February 13, 2015), available at http://www.lrc.ky.gov/pubinfo/release.htm.
[vi] H.R. 145, 11 Reg. Sess. B.R. 417 (Ky. 2015).
[vii] Jack Brammer, Kentucky Senate Leaders Deliver Blow to Proposed Statewide Smoking Ban, Lexington Herald-Leader (Feb. 20, 2015), http://www.kentucky.com/news/politics-government/article44555382.html.
[viii] See Stotelmyer, supra note iii.
[x] See H.R. 145, 11 Reg. Sess. B.R. 417 (Ky. 2015) (proposed amendments), available at http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/15RS/HB145.htm.
[xii] Brammer, supra note vii.