Riley opposes county-wide smoking ban

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By John Shindlebower

In addition to pushing for a dollar-a-pack increase in Kentucky’s cigarette tax, former Kentucky Attorney General Ben Chandler was in town last week to also talk to County Judge-Executive John Riley about a smoke free ordinance in the county.
Riley said he enjoyed his visit with Chandler, but said he has no intention of pushing any type of county-wide ban on smoking, suggesting that the voluntary bans that individual businesses have enacted in their stores and restaurants is sufficient.
“I’m not for any heavy-handed government for that kind of stuff,” said Riley. “This is a choice that business people make in our community.”
He said he’s not aware of any local stores or restaurants that currently permit smoking.
“Are there any? I don’t know for sure,” he said.
He said it’s now on a voluntary basis and said that’s where it should stay.
Riley is not alone. So far, only four Kentucky counties (Jefferson, Fayette, Hardin and Woodford) have passed broad anti-smoking ordinances, although several cities have done so. By and large, smoking bans are left up to the businesses.
Chandler said the benefit of smoking bans is that it protects all citizens, particularly from second-hand smoke. In addition, he said, it deters smoking even more from banning it from public.
“We want to change the norm about how people view smoking,” he said. Bans and ordinances would make smoking more inconvenient.
He said the Coalition for a Smoke Free Kentucky, which he represents, has three goals. Raising the cigarette tax, pushing for smoke-free laws, and cessation programs.
He said, of late, the tide has turned more toward anti-smoking measures in Frankfort, noting that during their last session, the legislature passed a measure requiring insurance companies to cover smoking cessation programs.
However, some, like Riley, are concerned about the constitutional issues of outright bans. Riley said he discussed Kentucky’s constitution with Chandler and how it relates to this issue.
Chandler was also asked if such a ban could lead to bans or restrictions on other products deemed unhealthy. For example, in New York City, city officials have limited the size of soft drinks that can be sold.
Chandler acknowledged the “slippery slope” argument, but said any law can be described as a slippery slope. However, he said he and his groups support legislation intended to improve the health of the state’s citizens.
“Policy wise, right now we don’t encourage healthy behavior,” he said, “And we spend twice as much on health care.”
However, Riley insisted that voluntary bans are the right way to address smoking.
“I don’t support a county-wide smoking ban.”