TennenFamily-70The tide seems to have finally turned on passing a statewide, comprehensive smoke-free law in Kentucky.  A recent Kentucky Health Issues Poll revealed that 65% of Kentuckians support a statewide smoke-free law. Leadership by Representative Susan Westrom (D) and Representative Julie Raque-Adams (R) in the House and Senator Julie Denton (R) in the Senate demonstrates that legislators on both sides of the aisle recognize the need to address this important issue. And more and more legislators are agreeing that it’s time to pass a statewide, smoke-free law in Kentucky.

A statewide, smoke-free law would protect workers from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. It would reduce Kentucky’s high rate of smoking during pregnancy and, in turn, reduce Kentucky’s high rate of low-birth weight babies. It would protect unborn babies of pregnant women in the workplace from secondhand smoke. It would protect children, and especially those with asthma, who are eating in restaurants from secondhand smoke. The list of benefits goes on and on.

But, you know what else? This law is not only good for health, it’s good for our state budget. Passing a statewide, smoke-free law would reduce the vast amount of money spent by our taxpayers on the Medicaid program due to smoking related health issues. Kentucky spends $1.5 billion a year in health care costs treating smoking related illnesses and $487 million of that is spent through Medicaid. Additionally, more than 4 in 10 births are paid for by Medicaid. That means taxpayers are paying the costs for low-weight and preterm births, because we don’t have policies like a smoke-free law to lower Kentucky’s shockingly high rates of smoking during pregnancy.

HB 173 would put into place a statewide, smoke-free law that covers indoor workplaces and public places. The bill has been sent to the House Health and Welfare Committee. If your legislator is on this committee, take a moment to reach out and ask him or her to vote yes. More information about how to do that can be found in this Way to Act.

Kentucky babies can’t wait to be protected from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. And when you think about it, our state budget can’t wait either. It’s time to do what works and pass a statewide, comprehensive smoke-free law in 2014.