Poll: Most Kentuckians support smoke-free, ‘Tobacco 21’ laws

Published 7:46 pm Wednesday, January 23, 2019


News release

LOUISVILLE — A majority of Kentucky adults continue to favor both adopting a statewide smoke-free law and changing current law to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 years, according the the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP) report. Majority support for the laws is found across all political parties and has held steady in recent years, the report found.

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KHIP is an annual telephone poll of Kentucky adults jointly sponsored by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health.

“Neither proposal is the subject of a bill in the 2019 legislative session, but it’s important for policymakers to recognize both that these laws work, and that the public strongly supports them,” said Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky President/CEO Ben Chandler.

Smoke-free law

A statewide smoke-free law would prohibit smoking in public places, including workplaces, public buildings, offices, restaurants and bars throughout Kentucky. These laws improve health by reducing exposure to secondhand smoke, which is linked to several tobacco-related health issues, including heart disease, cancer, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and asthma. Currently, 35.3 percent of Kentuckians live in cities or counties that have adopted such laws. Nationwide, residents of 28 states and the District of Columbia are protected by statewide smoke-free laws.

Since the statewide smoke-free law question was first asked in KHIP, support has risen from 54 percent in 2011 to as high as 71 percent in 2017. This year, 66 percent said they support the law, which is not significantly different from 2017 and similar to support seen from 2013 to 2015. Adults who identified themselves as Democrats registered the highest level of support at 77 percent; 62 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Independents said they support the law.

Nonsmokers and former smokers were more likely to say they supported a statewide smoke-free law than current smokers. Nearly half of current smokers support the law.

Tobacco 21

As with support for a smoke-free law, the percentage of Kentucky adults who favor raising the minimum legal age to purchase tobacco in the Commonwealth to 21 has held steady for the past three years. Fifty-six percent of Kentucky adults now favor a “Tobacco 21” law, the KHIP report found. According to a 2015 Institute of Medicine report, a Tobacco 21 law would reduce the smoking rate by about 12 percent and smoking-related deaths by 10 percent over the long term. Among teens ages 15 to 17, the law would decrease initiation of tobacco use 25 percent, the report concludes, adding that there also would be immediate health improvements for teens who no longer had access to tobacco products.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says that six states and at least 430 cities and counties have adopted Tobacco 21 laws.

“Kids today are the primary feeder market for the nicotine-addicted tobacco customers of tomorrow,” Chandler said. “Most youth who experiment with tobacco products start at about age 13 or 14, and they often get their tobacco products from older teens. Between the ages of 18 and 21 is when youthful experimentation turns into adult addiction. Tobacco 21 laws reduce both experimentation and addiction at a time when young brains are vulnerable to irreparable damage from nicotine.”

This telephone poll was conducted Aug. 26 through Oct. 11, 2018, among a random sample of 1,569 Kentucky adults. The results are accurate to plus or minus 2.5 percent.

Funded by an endowment, the mission of the nonpartisan Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity. Since the Foundation opened its doors in 2001, it has invested nearly $28 million in health policy research, advocacy, and demonstration project grants across the Commonwealth.