A bill to prohibit indoor smoking in businesses, places of employment, and other listed public places in Kentucky cleared its first hurdle on Wednesday, passing the House Health & Wellness Committee.
For Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexintgon, House Bill 145 is the fourth time she has tried to get a statewide smoking ban in place, with last year’s version officially dying when the legislative session wrapped up in April. At that time, Westrom promised she would be back with another proposal in 2015, saying she felt confident there would be enough votes to pass it. After today’s action, she said she thought it would get a vote by the full house next Wednesday, according to Kentucky.com, which would be a first for any of the smoking ban bills she has introduced.
The proposed ordinance would not only prohibit indoor smoking in businesses but create a 15-foot buffer zone from those locations in which smoking would be prohibited. Hotels and other forms of lodging would no longer be able to allow smoking in designated rooms.
Exemptions provided by the ban are few and narrow, focusing on laboratories at educational institutions, tobacco manufacturers or certain researchers, as well as in tobacco barns or buildings on private farms. There is currently not an exemption for premium cigar stores or tobacco retailers, though that was added to last year’s proposal via an amendment.
Enforcement of the ban would be handled by police officers, designated employees of the Department for Public Health, designated employees of the local health department, and designated employees of a unit of local government. Fines for violating the ban could be levied on both the smoker and business owner; those lighting up would be fined $100 for a first violation and $250 for each subsequent violation, while business owners who allow smoking would get a first-time fine of $250, while a second offense in a calendar year would cost $500 and subsequent offenses jump to $2,500.
The bill now heads to the House floor for a vote. Should it pass, it appears that it will meet opposition in the Senate, as Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, has said he doesn’t think there is much support for it in that chamber.