Last updated: September 04. 2014 6:22PM - 394 Views
By Kevin Halpern rhalpern@civitasmedia.com

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FRANKFORT – Citing Kentucky’s continued worst state ranking in smoking and cancer deaths, Governor Steve Beshear announced Thursday that all executive branch state property campuses will be tobacco-free effective November 20 – the day of the Great American Smokeout.

The decision is supported by a large majority of Kentuckians says Susan Zepeda, President/CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

“Today’s (Thursday) announcement by the governor underscores what our polling data indicate: Kentuckians know the risks of tobacco, and want protection from the harmful effects of second hand smoke,” Zepeda said. “Our most recent Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP) shows that more than 65% of Kentuckians favor a statewide smoke free law, and 84% favor tobacco-free school campuses.

“On a recent visit to Eastern Kentucky, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden noted the toll that tobacco use takes in Kentucky: with 28% of adults smoking, our tobacco-related health care and lost productivity costs exceed $4.2 billion per year. And nearly 8,000 Kentucky adults die each year from tobacco-related illness.

“The governor’s move today to bar tobacco, cigarette and e-cigarette usage in most executive branch buildings, campuses, and state-owned vehicles sends a clear signal that Kentucky is serious about curbing the negative health consequences of smoking, and committed to improving the health of Kentuckians,” Zepeda concluded.

Kentucky’s state buildings are already smoke-free. But this new policy, effective Nov. 20, bans all tobacco products, including chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes, from state property both indoors and outdoors. The governor’s office says it will impact visitors and 33,000 employees in 2,888 state buildings across Kentucky.

Beshear said he made the decision because Kentucky has one of the highest smoking rates in the country leading to nearly 8,000 tobacco-related deaths each year. But the ban exempts outdoor state parks and other tourist areas because Beshear said he did not want to put the state at a competitive disadvantage for tourism dollars.

Kentucky is the fifth state to institute such a policy. State government is the largest single employer in Kentucky, and the tobacco-free rule will affect approximately 33,000 state workers, as well as hundreds of thousands of visitors to these state offices and properties.

A primary goal of Governor Beshear’s kyhealthnow initiative is to reduce smoking rates by 10 percent by 2019.

“Tobacco products have a deadly grip on thousands of Kentuckians. Smoking and tobacco use are the single-biggest causes of preventable illness and death in our state,” said Gov. Beshear. “This policy will protect non-smokers from the effects of secondhand smoke, and encourage tobacco users to seek help in quitting.”

Nearly 5,000 executive branch state workers report that they use tobacco, and their health care costs average 20 percent higher than those who do not report tobacco use.

“Tobacco use is the single-biggest factor in our state’s persistent poor health, causing everything from cancer to emphysema, heart disease to strokes. This administration has worked to reduce tobacco use, including raising the cigarette tax and making tobacco cessation tools available to needy Kentuckians. This policy continues those efforts,” said Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson, chair of the kyhealthnow Oversight Team. “Smokers and tobacco users know the dangers and many want to quit. We have the tools to help.”

Currently, all executive branch buildings are smoke-free inside. The Governor’s executive order transitions that policy to tobacco-free, which includes smokeless tobacco products such as dip, snuff, and chew as well as electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). Although e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, many contain nicotine. Vapor produced from these devices can release nicotine, chemicals and other tobacco related contaminants, which can adversely impact bystanders. Several recent studies indicate that the use of e-cigarettes increases the likelihood that the user will smoke regular cigarettes, particularly if the user is a teenager.

“State government is setting a high standard for health,” said Audrey Tayse Haynes, Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. “Quitting isn’t easy, but tobacco users can get help through a number of resources we can provide – many at no cost.”

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