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FRANKFORT, Ky. -- (WDRB) -- A bill that would ban smoking in public places in Kentucky takes a step forward, passing through a House committee.
In the not-too-distant past, even talk about a statewide smoking ban would have been impossible here at the Capitol. But times have changed.
"I want to take what Louisville has enjoyed the benefits of and transfer it to the whole state," said Rep. Julie Adams, a Republican from Louisville who is co-sponsoring the bill. It would ban indoor smoking in public places, including restaurants and businesses.
"Twenty-two communities in the state of Kentucky have passed smoke-free laws. So, this really is a mainstream issue," said Adams.
The bill easily passed the House Health and Welfare committee. Gov. Steve Beshear is also on board, saying Kentucky has the highest smoking death rate in the country.
"It's just time to do it. It's not a rights issue, in my opinion. People can still smoke. They just won't be able to smoke in places where the smoke is going to hurt everybody else," said Beshear.
But opposition is strong, as was apparent last fall when the Bullitt Co. Health Department imposed a smoking ban. "That should be your decision," said one bar patron. "It should be up to the owner," said another.
Tobacco is still a lucrative cash crop for the state's farmers. But most Kentucky tobacco is exported, and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says farm organizations will likely not actively oppose the bill. But neither will there be much support.
"We're into allowing people to make their own decisions and not the government making the decision for them. But having said that, I'm certainly opposed to smoking. I don't smoke. I don't use tobacco products at all," said Comer.
"The folks involved with this movement are determined, and I think it will be here to stay," said Adams.
While the smoking ban has gained some momentum, it's not nearly enough to overcome the mountain of opposition. Any bill that may pass the House will likely die in the Senate.