Friday, February 13, 2015

Smoking ban bill clears House hurdle

A bill that would ban smoking and use of e-cigarettes both indoors or within 15 feet of public places and workplaces statewide passed the Kentucky House today by a vote of 51-46. Among those voting against the measure was Rep. Lynn Bechler (R-Marion).

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

“I’m acutely aware that the issues we vote on in this General Assembly impact not just the people in our backyard but throughout the entire state,” said House Bill 145 primary sponsor Rep. Susan Westrom (D-Lexington), who told her colleagues that she rejected the idea of statewide smoking restrictions 14 years ago in her early years as a state lawmaker.

Westrom said the fact that 950 people die each year in Kentucky from illnesses cause by second-hand smoke helped change her mind, leading her to begin filing smoke-free bills five years ago.

“This bill just requests that a smoker step outside 15 feet (from a workplace or public building). Fifteen feet isn’t too much to ask,” she said.

HB 145 – also referred to as the “Smokefree Kentucky” bill – as amended today would create a fine (with no court costs) of $25 for individuals and $50 for each business violating the proposed ban – a significant reduction of fines proposed in the original bill. It would also carve out exemptions from the proposed ban for private clubs, facilities that do tobacco marketing research, and cigar bars and tobacconists that can prove their tobacco sales are at least 10 percent of their gross annual sales.

Private residences would be unaffected by the proposal except in areas used for paid lodging, childcare, adult care, or health care. Any location where smoking or use of e-cigarettes is prohibited would have to be clearly marked with a no smoking sign at each entrance.

The bill as amended also clarifies that HB 145 would not repeal existing local ordinances or regulations that restrict smoking, and would not prevent localities from passing more restrictive rules.

TRep. Tanya Pullin (D-South Shore) said local governments have some time to craft and pass smoking ordinances acceptable to their constituencies before HB 145, if passed into law, would take effect later this year. Westrom agreed, clarifying that local ordinances would take precedence under the bill as amended.

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