Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Kentucky. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in Kentucky calls for the following actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Increase the tobacco tax by $1.00 per pack or more;
- Pass a statewide comprehensive smokefree law; and
- Repeal preemption to allow local communities to raise the smoking age to 21.
The House and Senate became Republican controlled for the first time in decades and the Republican caucus had an agenda that they wanted to get through quickly in the 2017 legislative session. For the first time, legislation was passing during the first two weeks of the legislative session and being signed by the governor. However, a statewide smokefree law was not supported by leadership in either chamber and thus it was decided by the American Lung Association in Kentucky and partners to not pursue this legislation in 2017.
The Lung Association with support from American Heart Association and other organizations worked with Senator Ralph Alvarado on drafting and filing a bill to make all school campuses in Kentucky tobacco-free. This legislation passed through the Senate but was disappointingly blocked in the House.
However, for the first time in years we celebrated a victory in tobacco control in Kentucky by seeing Senate Bill 89 pass. This bill ensures that all FDA-approved tobacco cessation products and U.S. Preventive Service Task Force recommended interventions were covered under Medicaid and private insurance with no barriers.
Finally, the city of Louisville passed an amendment to add hookah and e-cigarettes into their smokefree ordinance. It was a tough battle as the tobacco industry mobilized grassroots from the vaping industry but the city has a strong smokefree law that is now completely comprehensive.
The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health conducted their annual Kentucky Health Issues Poll on numerous health topics. Key findings for tobacco included:
- 71 percent of Kentucky adults support a smokefree law;
- Four in 10 Kentucky youth have tried e-cigarettes;
- 60 percent of Kentucky adults support raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.
The American Lung Association in Kentucky along with partners is working to raise the price of cigarettes by $1.00 or more, pass a comprehensive smokefree law in the state and repeal preemption to allow local communities to pass Tobacco to 21 laws by mobilizing grassroots support across the state. Our work to advance these policies includes holding summits and forums across the state and strengthening our state tobacco control coalition. The Coalition for a Smoke-free Tomorrow, which the Lung Association in Kentucky is part of, launched with a press conference on the capitol steps in 2017 and announced that its first major initiative was raising the tobacco tax.