Member Login

Op-Ed: Time for Kentucky to Catch Up with Ohio's Smoke-Free Law

Ten years ago this month, Ohio’s smoke-free workplace law went into effect. The law prohibits smoking in all places of business, including bars and restaurants. It has had a direct impact on me. For more than 12 years, I have worked as a bartender. 

I live in Kentucky, but am grateful to work in a smoke-free environment in Cincinnati. 

In the mid-1990’s, before Ohio’s smoke-free workplace law, I was a bartender in the Northside neighborhood of Cincinnati. I would come home at 3 a.m., exhausted from working all night. But I’d have to take a shower. I couldn’t stand to get into bed without washing off the cigarette smoke. 

If I wanted to visit with friends after an early shift, I would feel embarrassed to walk into someone’s home smelling like an ashtray. 

Now, I don’t have to shower after work. I can now go to family parties and hold babies after work without worrying about exposing them to the harmful secondhand smoke particles lingering on my clothes or in my hair. 

My manager at the Cincinnati bar has a simple choice: His establishment—and his competitors—are required to be smoke-free. Owners of similar establishments in Kentucky must navigate a confusing patchwork of laws.

Smoke-free policies also reduce the wear and tear on equipment, saving business owners money.

Research right here in our region has shown just how dangerous the air is in bars and restaurants that allow smoking. A study from Ohio State University compared air quality between bars in Cincinnati, which are smoke-free, with similar establishments in Covington, which has a partial smoke-free law that allows smoking if certain requirements are met. The study showed that the air quality in the Covington bars is 16 times worse than in the bars in Cincinnati. 

This means my peers at bars in my home state of Kentucky continue to be exposed to toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke at work. I am fortunate that when I chose to return to the service industry there was a job available for me in a smoke-free establishment. Not everyone has that luxury. 

Everyone deserves the right to clean air at work and that includes bartenders.

I am proud to be a native and lifelong resident of Northern Kentucky, but when it comes to smoke-free policy, our neighbors in the Buckeye state have got it right. It is time to catch up with Ohio. It’s time for a smoke-free Kentucky.

This op-ed is written by Amy Matracia of Dayton, Ky.