Boyle can be ‘Historically Bold’ with smoke-free ordinance

Published 9:39 pm Friday, July 5, 2019


Contributing columnist

“Historically Bold” — that’s our slogan from the Danville-Boyle County Convention and Visitors Bureau. We fly the banners downtown and put it on our marketing materials. It mirrors our pride in a community that was here before Kentucky became a state, but is always looking to the future to be a better place.

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We love our historic public spaces and homes, and we simultaneously rejoice when an innovative new business or tourist attraction opens.

“Historically Bold” can also be applied to decisions that have been made about improving the health of our county’s residents. Ephraim McDowell Health has been serving our area for a very long time — first as a single hospital, and more recently as a growing multi-county health care system. In the past several weeks, Ephraim McDowell has been discussing offering detoxification services for adults with substance use disorders. Building on the history begun with the groundbreaking surgery by Dr. Ephraim McDowell in 1809, the Danville hospital is stepping out boldly to respond to the current addiction crisis.

The Boyle County Health Department also has a long history of service in public health to Boyle County residents. More than two years ago, the Board of Health and fiscal court made a decision to add a syringe exchange program. Community leaders looked at the needs, responded to developing harm reduction research, and said “yes” to courageously expanding the public health scope of services. They didn’t abandon their historical core mission — they built on the foundation already laid.

Boyle County now has another opportunity to be “Historically Bold” in improving the health of our residents. The City of Perryville has been discussing the possibility of a smoke-free ordinance for Perryville public spaces. The Board of Directors of the Boyle County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy (ASAP) voted last week to recommend to Boyle County Fiscal Court that a county-wide smoke-free ordinance, similar to the current Danville ordinance, be written and passed.

Ten years ago, after much discussion and advocacy by community leaders such as then Public Health Director Roger Trent, Danville City Commission boldly decided to pass a smoke-free ordinance. In a town with significant ties to growing tobacco, Danville leaders responded to the research we didn’t have 100 or more years ago and courageously determined that their responsibility was to protect the health of residents. After 10 years, “Smoke-Free Danville” is well accepted, praised and expected.

Secondhand smoke research continues to show the dangers of being in smoking environments. Exposure to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the heart and blood vessels, and can cause heart disease and increased risk for a stroke. Increased risk for developing diabetes has also been definitively linked to exposure to secondhand smoke.

Longitudinal research after strong smoke-free laws go into effect has shown a 15% drop in heart attacks during the first year, with continued decline of 36% after 3 years. Not only is that improving the health of residents, it is reducing the health care costs in which we all share.

Smoke-free laws also have a significant positive impact on tourism. Increasingly, tourists prefer to visit areas with healthy environments, and places which have laws that protect both the local residents and travelers.

Our local economy needs the benefits of visitors. In 2017-18, Boyle County tourism revenue totaled over $98 million. Losing that income to other places with better public smoke-free protections can be avoided if we move forward with a county-wide ordinance.

Boyle County is blessed with thoughtful and strong leaders who have gone before us. Our history is a source of much pride. Good leaders know how to make changes based on new information, correct the mistakes of the past, and move forward boldly, compassionately and courageously.

Today’s county officials have the opportunity to become educated with the rest of us on the research around smoke-free laws. In doing so, they can join the ranks of the “Historically Bold.” Community health and wellbeing can be improved because of their courage.

Kathy L. Miles is coordinator for the Boyle County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy Inc.