Pass the smoke-free bill

February 28, 2014

As leaders of major faith groups, we believe Kentucky’s elected leaders need to take urgent action to improve the health of our state. During the 2014 legislative session, our elected officials will be examining the smoke-free issue once again. Rarely is such an opportunity available to profoundly impact our communities. We call on all our state’s leaders to work together to turn potential into progress and reduce the toll of tobacco in Kentucky, a state that leads the nation in lung cancer and other chronic diseases.

Every day we as faith leaders deal directly with the pain and suffering that tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure causes families in our ministries. We see kids who are becoming hooked on cigarettes and middle-aged adults who suffer from cancer, health disease and other problems that result from tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure.

Each year, almost 8,000 Kentuckians die from their own smoking and nearly 1,000 die as a result of secondhand smoke exposure. Much of this suffering could be alleviated simply by asking smokers to step outside. As organizations that place a high value on human life, we support a measure that would save lives and improve the quality of life for others.

Just as our diverse faith traditions have joined together on this preventable problem, the solution needs support from state leaders who are diverse but united on this issue. There are state legislators from both parties who are long-time champions of health. Their past efforts are invaluable and highly commendable, but now it is time to do more. Passing a statewide, smoke-free law is one of the most profound actions the legislature can take to improve public health.

The undersigned members of the Kentucky faith community urge our elected officials to pass a statewide, smoke-free law. This law will reduce tobacco use - the number one preventable cause of death and disease in our communities. It will also prevent needless death and disease caused by secondhand smoke exposure. We have the opportunity to make real progress toward better public health with this life-saving proposal. Our children and our communities cannot afford for this opportunity to slip away during another legislative session.

Dr. Muhammad Babar, Louisville

Mike Harris, Severns Valley Church, Elizabethtown

Paul Brunstetter, District Superintendent, Annual Conference of the Kentucky United Methodist Church, Elizabethtown

Rev. Dr. Marian M. Taylor, Executive Director, Kentucky Council of Churches, Lexington