Month: May 2012

Smoke-Free Decision Now in KY Senate’s Hands

PHOTO: Laura Tarakam, who lost a son to an asthma attack, wants the Kentucky Senate to pass a statewide smoke-free law. She says while secondhand smoke was not the cause of her son's death, it can be a trigger for asthma. Photo courtesy Smoke-Free Kentucky.

PHOTO: Laura Tarakam, who lost a son to an asthma attack, wants the Kentucky Senate to pass a statewide smoke-free law. She says while secondhand smoke was not the cause of her son’s death, it can be a trigger for asthma. Photo courtesy Smoke-Free Kentucky.

February 20, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Laura Tarakam has asthma and has lost one of her sons to an asthmatic attack. She wants Kentucky’s Senate to do what the Kentucky House did a week ago – pass a statewide, indoor smoke-free law.

“Someone with as sensitive lungs as my family has, secondhand smoke causes a trigger,” she told lawmakers. “And, you know, unfortunately seeing firsthand how quickly asthma attacks turn fatal, that trigger can be the last trigger.”

Tarakam’s son, Christopher Ledford, died in 2012 at age nine. She notes it was seasonal allergies that took his life, not secondhand smoke. But she says smoke bothered him, too, and her family does everything it can to avoid places where smoking is allowed. She says 13-year-old son Nicholas also has asthma.

On the same day the House passed its smoke-free bill, Sen. Julie Raque Adams of Louisville filed a similar bill, SB 189, in the Senate.

Adams, a Republican, is pushing the cost savings the law would deliver.

“I submit to you that saving taxpayer dollars is one of the most conservative things that we can do as members of the General Assembly,” Adams told her Senate colleagues. “So, I hope that we can show leadership for the taxpayers of Kentucky.”

According to Smoke-Free Kentucky, healthcare costs as a result of secondhand smoke exposure top $100 million annually. But several senators have voiced concerns that prohibiting smoking in workplaces and public places infringes on personal rights.

Tarakam disagrees – citing the Smoke-Free Kentucky coalition statistic that an estimated 950 Kentuckians die each year from secondhand smoke.

“There are times that I can step away from it, and there are times that I needed my inhaler and I needed to just leave,” she explains.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the lead federal agency on tobacco control, smoke-free laws “can reduce the risk for heart disease and lung cancer among nonsmokers.”

Kentucky Business Leaders: Smoke-Free Helps Bottom Line

PHOTO: Most businesses in Kentucky support a statewide indoor smoke-free law, according to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. Lawmakers will hear testimony about property rights Wednesday. Photo credit: Greg Stotelmyer.

PHOTO: Most businesses in Kentucky support a statewide indoor smoke-free law, according to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. Lawmakers will hear testimony about property rights Wednesday. Photo credit: Greg Stotelmyer.

December 16, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Health advocates are targeting the 2015 session of the Kentucky General Assembly for passage of a comprehensive smoke-free law that would cover all indoor public places and workplaces.

Lawmakers on the Health and Welfare Committee will explore the impact on property rights in Frankfort on Wednesday. Brent Cooper, president of an I.T. firm in Covington, says a statewide law is a sensible compromise.

“It’s perfectly reasonable to ask people to step outside,” says Cooper. “You don’t have the right to do anything you want in your building if it negatively impacts the health of your customers or your employees.”

Cooper founded his business, C-Forward Inc., in 1999. At that time employees were allowed to smoke inside, but he eventually went smoke-free in 2005, citing compelling evidence about the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Some lawmakers remain hesitant to tackle the property rights issue even though the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce says 92 percent of its members who responded to an annual survey support a statewide smoke-free law. Brad Richards, who serves as the president and CEO of the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce, says it’s a “no-brainer,” and that the law would help businesses.

“I think they understand the issue as it relates to their bottom line, and what health care costs are,” says Richards.

According to Smoke-Free Kentucky, annual health care expenditures in the commonwealth from secondhand smoke exposure are as high as $106 million. Cooper says that’s a point he plans to emphasize when he testifies before legislators.

“As time goes on the healthier your state is, the lower your healthcare costs will be,” he says. “Absolutely, that’s a compelling reason.”

Kentucky currently has a patchwork of local laws regarding indoor and workplace smoking, with about a third of the population living in smoke-free zones. Richards says for those who oppose the idea of taking the law statewide, his message is not intended to be anti-smoking.

“We’re not against you being able to smoke, or anyone being able to smoke,” says Richards. “But please, do it outside. Don’t affect other people in what it is that you’re doing.”

The Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare of the Kentucky Legislature meets Wednesday at 10 a.m. in the Capitol Annex, Room 129.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service – KY