KY communities continue to push for local tobacco control / Public Information Service
State lawmakers are expected to table a smoke-free bill next year. Health care advocacy groups and local elected officials say communities must have the right to implement their own stricter anti-smoking protections.
Since 1996, Kentucky and a dozen other states have enacted so-called pre-emption laws, which prevent cities and counties from deciding how tobacco products are marketed, sold, and distributed locally.
Meanwhile, more than a third of Kentucky students say the pandemic has increased their use of electronic cigarettes and vapes. McCracken County high school student Katharine Morrison said she sees her friends relying on tobacco to cope with stress and isolation during the COVID-19 crisis.
“I feel like people used it more because they were depressed and thought it was helping them,” Morrison said.
Smoking rates in Kentucky are among the highest in the country, and lawmakers have responded by implementing a statewide tobacco-free school policy, increasing tobacco taxes and raising age legal minimum to buy tobacco products at age 21.
Tobacco and vaping industries and some retailers continue to oppose local control, arguing that it hurts sales and independent businesses.
Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton said he would like the opportunity to implement measures to reduce smoking and improve the health of residents in his community.
“And I understand a lot of laws need to be enforced statewide,” Stapleton said. “But it’s much easier for some communities to be able to govern themselves on certain issues.”
State Senator Paul Hornback – R-Shelbyville – said nicotine addiction will continue to be a costly public health problem if the cycle of tobacco use in young children is not stopped.
“And they get their hands on it somehow and sell it back to other kids,” Hornback said. “There’s got to be more control over it, you know. The flavors and everything has to be eliminated.”
In his “Kentucky Blueprint 2022 for ChildrenThe Kentucky Youth Advocates group calls on the state to allow city and county governments to regulate the display, sale and distribution of tobacco products.
According to state data, last year, tobacco and e-cigarette companies spent more than $ 788,000 lobbying Kentucky lawmakers.
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