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Follow Danville’s lead on smoking ban

EDITORIAL

The Advocate-Messenger

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of Danville’s smoking ban, which means employees, customers and essentially everyone in the city has been breathing healthier air for a decade.

Danville was among the first local governments in the state to enact a smoking ban for indoor spaces. It remains among a minority of Kentucky cities and counties that have put such protections in place for their residents.

Less than 35 percent of Kentuckians — about one in three — was protected by a smoke-free law for indoor workplaces and public spaces as of July 1, according to the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy.

Danville residents are among those lucky one in three with protection; residents of Junction City, Perryville and unincorporated Boyle County are not. We think the 10-year anniversary of Danville’s smoking ban is the perfect time to start talking about expanding protections to more Boyle County residents.

There is simply no debate left to be had on whether public smoking bans are a good thing.

Smoking bans are good for public health. In Danville, indoor air pollution dropped by a whopping 84 percent following implementation of its smoking ban, according to a study done by the University of Kentucky in 2009.

Smoking is bad for your health. Around 8,900 Kentuckians die every year from smoke-related illnesses and an estimated 119,000 kids who start smoking today will die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses.

Public smoking bans can help prevent people from smoking by changing the culture, but they are more important because of the effects of second-hand — and even third-hand — smoke.

As Roger Trent noted in our story on the 10-year anniversary yesterday, individuals have the right to smoke. But individuals also have the right to not be forced to inhale tobacco and its many harmful chemicals.

Opponents of smoking bans who couch their arguments in freedom and individual rights conveniently ignore the much larger group who is infringed upon when people smoke in public.

There’re also clearly no negative economic impacts of a smoking ban. In fact, smoking bans have numerous economic benefits. Employees are happier and healthier, making them more productive; medical bills are smaller; tourists feel welcome and are more likely to come back.

The idea that bars and restaurants lose business or cut employees due to smoke-free laws? Also debunked.

A study from 2013 published in the peer-reviewed journal Preventing Chronic Disease found no negative impact to bars and restaurants from smoke-free laws. It looked at establishments in nine states, including Kentucky, where smoking had been permitted prior to smoke-free laws being put in place. In West Virginia, restaurant employment went up by 1 percent; in the other eight states, researchers “found no significant association between smoke-free laws and employment or sales in restaurants and bars.”

We don’t have to look any further than Danville for anecdotal evidence of this: Since going smoke-free, the city hasn’t shrunk from favor; instead, it’s successfully emerged from the Great Recession. Planning and zoning activity is up; multiple restaurants have opened downtown and on the southern end of the bypass; tourism is growing like it hasn’t before.

Given all this, we see no reason the other governments in Boyle County shouldn’t be planning to follow in Danville’s footsteps.