Leading Public Health Groups Voice Legal Concerns for Somerset if Cigar Bar Amendment Becomes Law

Citing How Change Could Lead to Costly Litigation for the City

On September 27, the Somerset City County will again meet to discuss an amendment to weaken the city’s smoke-free ordinance to allow smoking in certain indoor spaces. Leading public health organizations, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Americans for Nonsmokers Rights, the American Lung Association, American Heart Association and the Center for Black Health and Equity, oppose amending the smoke-free ordinance because of the health consequences, but this change could lead to costly litigation for the city.

During the council meeting earlier this month, multiple members brought up concerns during the course of the debate. 

According to a letter from the Public Health Law Center, “Exemptions in public health laws, such as smoke free ordinances, can draw litigation challenges for treating one group of people or businesses differently than others.” 

The letter goes on to read that “Legal challenges to smoke free laws can be expensive and time-consuming to address, regardless of outcome.” In fact, the city of Lexington, Kentucky has spent more that $330,000 in legal fees related to similar smoke-free exemptions. The Public Health Law Center does not provide legal representation or advice, and it is not authorized to practice law in Kentucky.

As a result, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Americans for Nonsmokers Rights, the American Lung Association, American Heart Association, and the Center for Black Health and Equityreleased this statement: 

“Our organizations have expressed serious concerns about the health consequences of weakening Somerset’s smoke-free law, and this new letter shows that this move could have significant financial implications as well. 

“If this amendment moves forward, it will expose workers and the public to the deadly dangers of secondhand smoke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and secondhand smoke kills an estimated 41,000 Americans per year. It is also a known cause of lung cancer, heart disease and stroke, and can cause or make worse a wide range of damaging health effects including respiratory infections and diseases such as asthma.

“Allowing cigar bars will also send youth the false message that smoking is acceptable as an adult and it will undermine our current law that helps normalize smoke-free environments. 

“We urge council members to vote no on any amendments that will result in weakening Somerset’s smoke-free law.”

For more information, contact:

James A. Martinez
(312) 445-2501
[email protected]

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