As a student in the University Of Louisville’s School Of Public Health, we often discuss methods to reduce behaviors that are harmful to health and increase wellness at the community level. We discuss strategies such as increasing sidewalk safety to promote exercise, the placement of healthy foods in school cafeterias to promote nutrition, reducing the spread of communicable diseases to promote wellness, and yes, we discuss reducing tobacco use in Kentucky– a lot.

Tobacco use is the single greatest threat to the health of our state’s population. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7,800 adults die from smoking each year in our state. Even more troubling is that a projected 107,000 kids under 18 years old, will die prematurely due to smoking. Smoking related diseases kill more people than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined.

Tobacco use not only harmfully affects the health of the smoker, but it also harms the health of bystanders. Secondhand smoke causes 4,800 lung cancer deaths each year and 46,000 heart disease deaths each year in individuals who do not smoke. Secondhand smoke exacerbates asthma, allergy, and heart health problems in children who are innocently subjected to it. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are repeatedly hospitalized and placed in intensive care when they are sick with common illnesses.

Smoke-free policies are not only evidence-based, but are also the most effective way to promote healthy behaviors. HB 190 would implement a statewide smoke-free policy covering all public places and workplaces. The bill quickly passed out of the House Health and Welfare Committee on February 7, 2013, and has been waiting for a vote by the full House since then. However, despite the momentum and tremendous public support for HB 190 during this legislative session, many legislators are still hesitant to commit to supporting the bill so there has yet to be a vote in the House.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a strong supporter of the bill, recently sent HB 190 to the House Judiciary Committee so advocates can formally respond to concerns from some legislators that business owners should have the right to decide whether or not to allow smoking in their establishments. This “private property rights” argument is a major hindrance in passing the bill, even though the issue has been settled at the local level in dozens of Kentucky communities and many other states.

HB 190 is on the House Judiciary committee agenda for Monday, March 4 at 2pm in the Capitol Annex in Frankfort. Please join us in Frankfort to show your support!

Also, please call 800-372-7181 and ask your legislators to support HB 190.