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Friday, February 13, 2015

OPINION: Keep an Open Mind about Smoking Ban

by Brent Cooper

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.

The views and opinions expressed here in this opinion editorial do not reflect the views or opinions of Fort Thomas Matters, it owners, writers, or editors. These are solely the ideas of the author.


  1. I am against a non-smoking law. I am a nonsmoker, but I want to have the right to make the decision whether to enter a smoking establishment or not. Please, no more government interference.

  2. If the establishment caters to families (i.e., has a children's menu) smoking should be prohibited. In such a situation a child is an invitee of the business. A duty of reasonable care is owed to all patrons. Exposing a child to carcinogens for the sake of other customers nicotine addiction is reprehensible to me. Sure the parents could take them elsewhere. But this is KY - many parents don't know better, smoke themselves, or believe government should stay out it and therefore care more about the principal rather than their child's exposure.

  3. I have never smoke a day in my life, but I will defend a citizen's right to do as he pleases. NO SMOKING BAN! If he wants to smoke, let him smoke. It USE to be a free country, until these do-gooders like our boy Brent here, and queen Michelle started telling people what to do. LET THEM SMOKE!

  4. We went through this when we lived in Ohio. It was such a relief after it passed. No confusion. Folks were hyping that businesses would go out of business. As the smokers left the non smokers and their families arrived. Previous efforts to have both smoking and non smoking were abysmal failures.
    If folks want to smoke, they can go outside. Let everyone be able to breathe.

  5. Having grown up in house with smokers and having no say in the matter, I'm all for the ban. No one needs to be forced to smell smoke, breathe smoke, and wear smoke while eating. It's about time KY entered the 21st century.

  6. We stopped eating out in KY after our daughter was born. It was difficult before since my husband has asthma, but after her birth we just got used to going over the river. We're not isolated individuals, we're a community of people and what one person does can affect us all. I have no idea why this is controversial.

  7. Anti Smoking Ban....

  8. It's a matter of public health. Time to get smoking out of the public arena.

  9. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the number of deaths in the U.S. due to second-hand smoke is estimated to be 41000 per year. The number of deaths due to automobile accidents per year is estimated to be about 41200. If it's a "matter of public health", then a ban on automobiles should logically come first, before a ban on smoking But I don't see anyone calling for that.

    1. Good point. Your logic supports a smoking ban. How many of those auto fatalities are alcohol related, not wearing seatbelts, or distracted driving? Most of those deaths were preventable. Deaths from second hand smoke can be prevented with a smoking ban. The problem is that smokers have an addiction they construe as a right that shall not be tread upon. Protecting one's addiction over the health and welfare of others is the worst kind of government.

  10. We enter restaurants everyday with many expectations from government standards. One, the facility will be maintained by legislated sanitary and safety standards. Two, the facility will prepare the food and drink to sanitary standards that are clearly defined. Three, we accept without thought the water used is the best standard in the world and give it no worry as to its purity based exclusively on filtration and government standards. Four, we assume the food supply has met federal guidelines and is safe to consume. We never question any of these things and yet there are still some who ignore medical fact on secondhand smoke and will cite already discounted studies, will rely on tobacco industry produced materials and ignore common sense physical reaction that we have to second hand smoke and call it "a right" to pollute the air.

    Second hand smoke is like drinking water at your table that was poured from the restrooms. Get real.

  11. I've had two friends killed by drunk drivers.
    Inebriation is a matter of public health. Time to get liquor out of the public arena.