By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — A legislative panel approved a measure Wednesday that would ban smoking inside public places across Kentucky.
House Bill 190 would protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke while still allowing people to light up outside, said state Rep. Susan Westrom, sponsor of the measure.
This is the second year the House Health and Welfare Committee has passed a statewide smoking ban sponsored by Westrom, D-Lexington. Gov. Steve Beshear has backed the initiative, and mentioned HB 190 in Wednesday’s State of the Commonwealth speech.
The proposal has never been voted on by the full House, and it would likely have a rough road in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said Wednesday that the government shouldn’t be telling businesses they cannot regulate smoking on their own property.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he supports the measure and that sponsors are working to see if the bill has enough votes to pass the House.
“I think they’re close,” Stumbo said.
Republican Rep. Julie Adams of Louisville, a co-sponsor of HB 190, said 300 organizations have backed the Smoke-Free Kentucky initiative and polls show that the majority of registered voters support a statewide smoking ban.
Twenty-nine states have passed statewide smoking bans and 24 have passed bans that are similar to HB 190, she said. Twenty-two communities in Kentucky have passed smoke-free ordinances, Adams said.
“This is a main stream issue,” Adams said. “The Kentucky General Assembly is way behind the general public.”
Four Republicans on the committee had reservations about the proposal, saying they had difficulty balancing the need to protect public health with the need to protect the rights and businesses and individuals.
Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, Rep. Russell Webber, R-Shepherdsville, Rep. Ben Waide, R-Madisonville and Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Burlington, ultimately did not vote on the legislation. The measure passed 11-0.