smoking

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Kentucky smokers now have greater access to resources that can help them kick the habit.

A new state law now in effect requires insurance coverage of all forms of tobacco cessation services recommended by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force. That includes smoking and tobacco-use cessation counseling, group health education, and federally approved anti-smoking medications.

Adam Haley, Director of Public Policy for the Kentucky Chapter of the American College of Cardiology, says the changes present a great opportunity for more smokers to get help.

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A new poll shows growing support for a statewide ban on smoking in most public places, despite Kentucky having the highest rate of smokers in the nation.

The latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll shows 71 percent of Kentuckians support a comprehensive statewide-smoke free law compared to 66 percent over the last two years.

Ben Chandler, president and CEO of Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, says such a law would help reduce second-hand smoke and discourage young people from becoming smokers.

“When people don’t see smoking as much, they’re not likely to do it and where we have to stop the smoking is with young people,” Chandler says. “Those are the people who are the most influenced by these things.”

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Kentucky has ranked first in the country in deaths from lung cancer for years, and about a third of those deaths were related to smoking, according to a 2016 study released by the American Cancer Society.

A lot of public attention is now focused on overdose deaths from heroin and other drugs, but studies show deaths from lung cancer and other smoking-related cancers were three times as high as deaths from overdoses in 2015.

I spoke with Heather Wehrheim, advocacy director of the American Lung Association in Kentucky. She says addressing the public health effects of tobacco use should be more of a priority for not only the state, but also the public.

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Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover says a bill that would ban all tobacco products at public school campuses likely will not pass this year.

Senate Bill 78 would ban the use of all tobacco products at public schools or school-sponsored events. It passed the Senate by a vote of 25-8-2 last month. The bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Ralph Alvarado, is a medical doctor who has been advocating for a statewide workplace smoking ban.

Hoover said there is not enough support to pass the bill among Republicans, who have a supermajority in the House. He said most members want to leave that decision to the local school boards.

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Ten months after completing a smoking cessation class, Terrence Silver started smoking cigarettes again. It was his first attempt at quitting after smoking for 40 years. His biggest motivation to quit: cost.

“That was the primary reason I was going to quit, the money,” Silver said. “It wasn’t health, wasn’t that I didn’t like it. It was the money.”

Silver lives across the river in Jeffersonville, Indiana, where the tax on cigarettes is 99 cents per pack. So he comes to Kentucky to buy his cigarettes, where the tax is 60 cents.

Silver said when he took the smoking cessation class in April of 2015 — offered through the Metro Department of Public Health — he learned about his triggers: every time he gets in his car, he reaches for a cigarette.

State health officials are pointing to more progress in efforts to reduce Kentucky's youth smoking rate.

The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services says the latest smoking rate among Kentucky high school students is 16.9 percent, down from 26.2 percent a decade ago. That's according to the 2015 Kentucky Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Youth smoking rates in Kentucky remain higher than the national average. Officials say the nationwide rate was 10.8 percent in 2015.

Officials from the Kentucky Department for Public Health attribute the state's decade-long decline, in part, to tobacco-free school policies, which encourage districts to create environments where tobacco and alternative nicotine products are prohibited.

Joseph Lord, WFPL

E-cigarettes and smoking hookah have gained popularity among middle and high school students in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes tripled from 2013 to 2014.

Among high school students, 13.4 percent were found to be using e-cigarettes in 2014 compared with 4.5 percent in 2013. The number of middle school students using e-cigarettes also tripled from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014.

Vince Willmore, vice president for communication at the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, said marketing of e-cigarettes has played a big role in young people using the product.

“They’re available in flavors that appeal to kids like cotton candy and gummy bear, so it’s not surprising that kids are using more of these products because they’re being marketed in the very same way that regular cigarettes have been marketed to kids,” he said.

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The majority of Kentucky adults favor raising the legal age to buy tobacco products, according to a poll released Monday morning.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll, by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health, shows 60 percent of Kentucky adults support raising the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Susan Zepeda, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said raising the age would serve as a deterrent for young people starting to use tobacco products.

“If the shopkeepers are doing their jobs, it would mean that the only way a younger person could get cigarettes would be if an older person would either give them to them or buy them for them,” she said.

Kentucky’s smoking rate is 30.2 percent, the highest in the U.S., according to the most recent Gallup-Healthways report.

CDC Anti-Smoking Campaign Targets Kentucky

Jan 25, 2016
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Louisville resident Linda Wood said she has smoked cigarettes since she was 16. Now 50, Wood said she’s seen television ads in the past showing the health issues caused by smoking.

“It makes you want to cut back a lot. And I have went from three packs a week to one pack,” Wood said.

Wood said when she watches the ads of Terrie Hall speaking with the aid of an artificial voice box, she thinks “that could be me.”

Wood said she is on her way to quitting.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is hoping to reach more people like Wood. The CDC launched an anti-smoking campaign Monday that targets people living in states with high smoking rates, including Kentucky.

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Kentuckians’ views on a statewide smoking ban have remained virtually unchanged since 2013, with the vast majority of residents supporting the measure, a new poll shows.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll released Monday that found 66 percent of Kentucky adults favor a statewide smoke-free law, and 31 percent oppose it.

The poll was funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health, formerly the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.

Gabriela Alcalde, vice president for policy and program at the foundation, said there has been a steady increase in recent years of Kentuckians who favor a smoking ban law, which would prohibit smoking in indoor public places.

“There’s been extensive work by advocates as well as health educators,” she said.

Kentucky has the highest smoking rate in the U.S. at 30.2 percent, according to the most recent Gallup-Healthways report.

A federal report says raising the legal age to buy tobacco products to higher than 18 would likely prevent premature death for hundreds of thousands of people.

The report issued Thursday by the Institute of Medicine was commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration and mandated by a 2009 law that gave it authority to regulate tobacco.

The law set the federal minimum age at 18. Congress would have to act to raise it nationally.

Most states currently have set the age at 18. Four set the age at 19 and several localities, including New York City, have raised the minimum to 21.

The report looks at the impact of increasing the age to 19, 21 or 25, but it does not make any recommendations.

Two Louisville lawmakers will again attempt to get a statewide smoking ban passed.

Representative Susan Westrom and Senator-elect Julie Racque-Adams have tried--and failed—to get such a ban through the past four legislative sessions.

Westrom, a House Democrat, blamed members of her own party’s leadership after a smoking ban failed to receive a floor vote in the chamber during the 2014 General Assembly.

Tobacco and e-cigarettes will soon be banned from many Kentucky state properties under the executive cabinet. The new policy announced by Governor Beshear  Thursday covers  state buildings, vehicles and other designated locations.

The announcement adds onto previous legislation aimed solely at cigarettes. Beshear said his executive order aims to combat Kentucky’s number one ranking in cancer and smoking deaths.

“You know, this year is the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. Surgeon General’s report alerting Americans to the deadly consequences of smoking. That’s five decades. Five decades of warnings," Beshear said.

"But warnings by themselves, as we know, are not enough.”

Kentucky received straight Fs on the 2014 “State of Tobacco Control” report published Wednesday by the American Lung Association.  The study looked at four areas including creating a smoke free environment, cigarette taxes, insurance coverage for cessation programs and tobacco prevention.

Ellen Kershaw with the American Lung Association – Kentucky says tobacco education programs that have had success across the country have been underfunded by state lawmakers in Frankfort.  

“Media campaigns, in-school programs, county health education and outreach. Across the board, there’s so much more that Kentucky can do,” said Kershaw.

The study found that 28 percent of Kentuckians smoke and nearly a quarter of the state’s high school students are tobacco users.  Kershaw says the American Lung Association also supports a higher cigarette tax in Kentucky.

“That’s another effective tool, that unfortunately, hasn’t been implemented yet here in Kentucky,” said Kershaw. “We would definitely advocate for at least a dollar increase in the cigarette tax as a way to encourage kids not to pick up the habit and also for people to quit smoking.”

The Bullitt County Fiscal Court is giving its approval to a plan that would bar smoking on county-owned property. Still unsolved, however, is a lawsuit against the county Board of Health over a regulation it passed in 2011 that outlaws smoking in all public places, including bars and restaurants.

According to the Courier-Journal, Bullitt Fiscal Court and eight cities in the county sued the Board of Health, saying the body doesn’t have the power to enact such rule changes.

That lawsuit is currently before the state Supreme Court.

The ban passed by the county fiscal court Wednesday doesn’t cover all work and public places, only select facilities owned by the county.

Two Kentucky state lawmakers are sponsoring a bill at the General Assembly that would create a statewide smoking ban.

A recent Kentucky Health Issues Poll shows that a majority of Kentuckians support a statewide smoking ban.

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