Cities in Kentucky Are Taking a Hard Stance Against Smoking
Considering the environmental and health risks of smoking are well-documented and far-reaching, governments must take action and enact policies to combat smoking. However, despite being one of the US states with the highest smoking rates, Kentucky’s statewide smoking ban remains nonexistent. At the 2016 Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy conference, this was attributed to the complex political climate at the Senate level and the strong influence of the tobacco industry in the state.
Since then, comprehensive anti-smoking efforts have shifted to local levels. Due to the health and economic benefits of going smoke-free, more and more cities in Kentucky are taking a hard stance against smoking through legislation and cessation programs. Let’s take a closer look at how local governments and health departments are implementing these.
Citywide smoke-free ordinances
Currently, Kentucky is one of only 12 states without a statewide smoking ban. It has only banned smoking in all state vehicles and government properties like executive branch buildings. As cities have risen to the need to reduce smoking rates and prioritize public health, there are now 45 cities in Kentucky with anti-smoking ordinances that apply to all public places.
This year, Bellevue’s smoking ban took effect to cover all Bellevue buildings, workplaces, restaurants, bowling alleys, bars, and stores. Bellevue now joins Lexington and another city in Northern Kentucky, Dayton, as cities that have adopted similar legislation for banning smoking indoors, even in entertainment venues.
Inclusion of vapes in smoking bans
It’s also worth noting that most smoke-free policies in Kentucky have been proactive enough to include not just cigarettes and other tobacco products but also electronic cigarettes or vapes in the ban. While these products are tobacco-free and do not emit smoke, non-users can still be exposed to chemicals and secondhand aerosol, especially in indoor environments. Yet again, there is no statewide ban on vapes, but as of writing, there are ten localities with vaping bans that include all bars and restaurants.
Smoking cessation efforts
In an effort to take a step closer to having smoke-free environments, Kentucky cities have also been focusing on public smoking cessation programs. For instance, the North Kentucky Health Department has partnered with health organizations like the American Cancer Society to raise awareness on smoking’s health risks and connect smokers to helpful quit resources. Aside from quit helplines and web-based counseling, the NKHD introduces Kentucky residents to free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products from local pharmacies, which include nicotine gums, patches, and lozenges.
Beyond these free and accessible resources, Kentucky residents can also take the initiative to explore other over-the-counter NRTs, such as nicotine pouches. While relatively newer in the market, these NRTs can be bought online and offline. The ZYN nicotine pouches on Prilla can be shipped anywhere in the US within a few days, including Kentucky. Not only are these oral NRTs smokeless and tobacco-free and thus usable even in places with smoking and vaping bans. Since they are also designed with Americans in mind, smokers can effectively use them to quit and combat tobacco use that’s otherwise embedded in Kentucky’s social and cultural norms.
Tobacco treatment and counseling
While Kentucky has been lagging behind in terms of smoke-free legislation, a positive step on the state front was a law passed in 2017—seeking to reduce barriers to tobacco treatment and counseling. Kentucky is one of the states where healthcare insurers, such as Medicaid, are required to cover non-nicotine tobacco cessation medication like Zyban and Chantix, alongside NRTs approved for both prescription and over-the-counter. Smokers who are Kentucky Medicaid participants also have enhanced access to cessation counseling, as the law also eliminated co-payments and integrated medication with counseling.
This law is reflected in city-level initiatives, such as Louisville’s partnership with American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking, where information about prescription quit medication is accessible to program participants to encourage them to quit for good. Ultimately, state and local governments in Kentucky must join efforts to reduce smoking rates substantially and make smoke-free schools, workplaces, and public places a reality for all.