FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Smokers in one of the nation's top tobacco-producing states would have fewer places to light up under legislation that appears to be gaining momentum in the Kentucky Legislature.
The House Health and Welfare Committee voted Thursday to pass the measure that would ban smoking in restaurants and other public places. That vote came one day after Gov. Steve Beshear used his annual State of the Commonwealth speech to urge lawmakers to take the action.
"Over the years, we've taken numerous steps to reduce Kentucky's historic addiction to tobacco," Beshear said. Despite that, he said, Kentucky ranks high for the number of adults who smoke, teens who smoke and pregnant women who smoke.
"Our addiction hurts productivity, jacks up health care costs and kills our people," he said
Beshear said some three dozen cities and counties in Kentucky already have smoking bans. That includes large cities like Lexington and Louisville as well as small towns like Beattyville and Manchester.
The governor said the 25 percent of Kentuckians who smoke still could light up, just not in places where they would expose others to secondhand smoke.
The legislation now goes to the full House for consideration.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the measure, which would have been quashed in year's past, appears to have a shot at passage this year.
"It's an easy vote if you think about it, because most of our cities and communities ... particularly the big ones where all the votes are, already have smoking bans," Stumbo said.
While attitudes about smoking have changed, House Republican Whip Bam Carney said many lawmakers still believe the Legislature shouldn't be dictating smoking bans in local jurisdictions. He said some believe decisions about whether to allow smoking should rest with city and county governments.
State Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, is among lawmakers who haven't decided how they will vote on the issue.
"If I were to vote for that, I think I'd anger a lot of people," he said.
The legislation is House Bill 190.