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Op-Ed: Keep an Open Mind About Proposed Smoking Ban

I would like you to keep an open mind about supporting a law that over 90-percent of Kentucky Chamber of Commerce members are for. It polled higher than any other business issue the KY Chamber surveyed this year and is something that tourism and economic development leaders have said that they would love to have. It will also save the state a ton of money, and will save lives; but best of all doesn't cost the state a dime.
 
I am talking about the proposed statewide smoke-free law. Now I know many of you have said you are against it, but I'm asking you to talk to one another, to look at the latest data, and reconsider.
 
If secondhand smoke were just an inconvenience, I understand siding with the rights of business owners and saying, “You can do what you want in your own place.” But data comes out every year that shows secondhand smoke makes you sick. Visit the NKY Health Department and look at the latest information. And visit Phillip Morris’s
website to see what they have to say about the health problems caused by second hand smoke
 
If you agree that secondhand smoke makes you sick, consider other laws when it comes to things that impact health and safety. Businesses used to be able to decide how many could come into their establishment (a free market decision), until there were fires, and we decided to make rules against overcrowding. Businesses could decide whether or not restaurant staff had to wash their hands before preparing food (a free market decision) until people realized that not requiring hand washing was a health hazard. Businesses could decide how to handle seating for events, until The Who concert where people got trampled.
 
Let’s face it, many of the health & safety laws we take for granted today came at the expense of a business right. 
 
We don't ban alcohol, but we do have laws against public intoxication and drunk driving because those are things that impact others. So does secondhand smoke. And this law doesn't ban smoking. Every time someone says, “Don’t take away my right to smoke!”, I believe they haven’t read the proposed legislation. This law simply asks that you step outside when you smoke, which is frankly something people should be doing anyway, knowing the impact that secondhand smoke has on the health of those around them. 
 
Communities that have implemented smoke free laws have seen reductions in cancer, asthma attacks, heart attacks, you name it. The savings to our collective health are tremendous and cannot be ignored.
 
Ask yourself why you would support spending more state dollars on cancer research and smoking cessation programs, and not the one FREE policy change that would eliminate a ton of cancer in our state? I don’t understand how people can complain about how unhealthy our state is, and how much health care is costing us, and not do the one FREE thing that would save businesses a ton of health care dollars. I’m baffled how people champion the rights of businesses to do what they want in their own business, but continue to make it illegal for businesses to ask people if they smoke during an interview? That’s right, smokers are still a protected class in our state. Where are those championing the rights of business on that issue?
 
Finally, a Kentucky statewide smoke-free law will eliminate the confusion that comes from one place allowing smoking and others that don't. Which is why tourism folks, and many businesses that are already smoke free, support this legislation.
 
Not having a statewide smoke-free policy is costing us a ton of money and human capital. I urge you to reconsider smoke-free.
 
For further reading on this topic, see the Center for Disease Control's peer-reviewed analysis of the economic impact of smoke-free laws on states: Click Here
 
Brent Cooper is President and Owner of C-Forward, an I.T. Services Company with headquarters in Covington, KY, and a current KY Chamber of Commerce Board member, as well as the Chair of the KY Chamber’s Education and Workforce Council. Brent is a past Chair of the NKY Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the NKY Workforce Investment Board.