Derek Anderson leads Smoke Free Kentucky rally; House to vote

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on February 14, 2013 at 9:11 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 14 at 9:20 PM

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WHAS11) -- It was 2006 and former University of Kentucky basketball great Derek Anderson was on top of the world.

He had just won the NBA championship with the Miami Heat and was enjoying a reunion with his father, who he hadn't seen since he was a child.

"His name was Thomas Williams. And he was 6'9," three inches taller than me," Anderson recalled.  His 61 year old father was a smoker since the age of 17.

"When that cancer hit him, he just shriveled up," Anderson said, "And two weeks later he was gone.  So, it was pretty devastating, just getting a relationship back with my father a year before that.  And to lose him like that is pretty tough."

Seven years after his father's lung cancer death, Anderson joined Governor Steve Beshear, legislators and business leaders in the Capitol rotunda,  calling for a comprehensive smoke-free law that would cover all indoor workplaces and public places in Kentucky.

"It's not just about you if you are a smoker, it's about the people you affect," Anderson told the dozens of people who gathered for the event.

It is the third attempt at the statewide smoking ban, again sponsored by Rep. Susan Westrom (D-79) and also introduced by Rep. Julie Raque-Adams (R-32), who sponsored a smoke-free ordinance a decade ago as a member of the Louisville Metro Council.

"I want the entire state to have the same great experience that Louisville has had," Raque-Adams said.  "Business at our bars and restaurants is great, employees are healthier and Louisville’s image as a forward-thinking, business-friendly city has been enhanced. It’s been a huge success."

Louisville is among 23 Kentucky communities with smoke-free laws or regulations that, like HB 190, cover all indoor workplaces, including restaurants and bars.  Twenty-four states have also passed similar laws.

The statewide smoking ban passed the House Health and Welfare Committee last week.

"Smoking is not only killing us in Kentucky it's also bankrupting us," said Dave Adkisson, the President of the Kentucky Chamber, "When you think about the impact on employers."

Yet the political will to ban workplace smoking doesn't exist in some Kentucky counties where the rights of business owners and personal freedoms compete with the dangers of secondhand smoke.

"I don't want to take any rights away from people to choose what they want to do," said Jo Ann Kats of Louisville, "but I do believe it's in the interests of everybody to avoid cigarette smoke at all costs."

Kats is a former smoker who believes her heart disease was precipitated by cigarettes.

In 2011, the Bullitt County Fiscal Court and Bullitt's eight cities sued to stop a smoking ban enacted by the county health department.

That order is now in the hands of the Kentucky Supreme Court.

"We haven't been able to implement it," said Swannie Jett, the Bullitt County Health Director, "but for the most part we have reached out to local businesses that don't have a smoke free policy and most of them have a smoke free policy now.

After initially saying each Kentucky community should decide its smoking policy, Governor Steve Beshear now supports a statewide ban.

"I just think it's time," Beshear (D) told reporters after the rally.  "This is costing us lives. It's costing us health care costs. It's costing us economic costs."

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