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By Chris Kenning
With a smoking rate that tops the nation, Kentucky is further tightening tobacco restrictions for 33,000 state workers, Gov. Steve Beshear said Thursday.
A new executive order will expand a 2006 ban on smoking inside state buildings to include surrounding property such as sidewalks, lawns and parking lots, while extending it to include all forms of tobacco such as snuff, chew or e-cigarettes — and it will apply to state vehicles.
State parks, rest areas, some veterans centers and the state fairgrounds will be among those areas exempted under a new policy, which is effective Nov. 20 for the state’s largest employer in 2,888 buildings.
“When it comes to preventable illnesses and deaths, nothing in Kentucky is as devastating as smoking and tobacco use,” Beshear said. “Today’s policy is about improving our health.”
The order, signed Thursday, comes after the General Assembly earlier this year rejected legislation that would have prohibited smoking in workplaces throughout the state, which opponents said trampled the rights of property and business owners.
Amy Barkley, head of the Smoke-free Kentucky advocacy group, applauded Thursday’s action, saying in a statement that it would protect non-smokers and help others quit. The state says about 5,000 of its workers use tobacco.
“We are hopeful that this policy will motivate the legislature to pass a comprehensive, statewide, smoke-free law that will protect the rest of Kentucky workers from secondhand smoke exposure in all other indoor workplaces,” she said.
But the new policy did not go over well among state workers in the outdoor smoking area at Louisville’s L&N building on Broadway, which houses hundreds of employees with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services offices.
“My health is my business, not his,” said state worker Amy Frith, who sat at a wooden picnic table on a converted loading dock with a half-dozen other upset smokers, who said it would force them across the street. “Fix our economy, don’t worry about what we’re smoking.”
Others said they smoked because their jobs were stressful and poorly paid, and noted they already paid a health care surcharge for smoking. Frith added, “Is he going to come and take my Hershey’s bars, too?”
A recent Gallup-Healthways report found Kentucky topped states in smoking, at 30.2 percent — a rank it has held since 2008. Nearly 7,900 residents die each year of smoking related illnesses, in a state with one of the nation’s highest rates of lung cancer.
Beshear said he and the General Assembly have already worked to raise taxes on cigarettes, expanding counseling services to quit and banning sale of e-cigarettes to youth.
Yet with the smoking rate slowly falling nationally to 19.7 percent — and 33 states having bans on smoking in private worksites and restaurants — support for smoking bans is growing, even in Kentucky, polls show.
A Bluegrass Poll earlier this year found that, for the first time, a majority, or 57 percent, supported a statewide ban. Supporters included groups such as the Kentucky Chamber, which argued that smoking costs the state billions a year and raises health care costs.
Beshear said tobacco-related health care costs amount to nearly $1.9 billion a year in Kentucky.
At least 39 Kentucky cities and counties have enacted or adopted some sort of smoke-free law, including Louisville and Lexington, according to the University of Kentucky’s Tobacco Policy Research Program. Some are stricter than others, advocates say.
The latest move by Beshear adds to the executive order signed by Governor Ernie Fletcher in 2006. Prior to that, the state was required to provide access to indoor smoking facilities in office buildings. The L&N, for example, had a large indoor smoking room.
He said he include e-cigarettes because, while they do not contain tobacco, do contain nicotine and can increase the likelihood of someone smoking.
Asked how it would be enforced, he said that “we’re not going to have tobacco police” but said that “anyone who repeatedly refuses to abide by the policy would be subject to disciplinary action.”
At the L&N, security guard Wesley Burton said he was going to have to stop people from smoking while he, too, would be craving a smoke.
The policy doesn’t include the General Assembly or the judicial branch, but Beshear said he hoped other offices and even employers would follow suit. He said the state would continue to offer programs to help employees quit.
He highlighted a state goal to reduce smoking by ten percent across the state, and said he planned to support another attempt to pass a broad state smoking ban in 2015.
“We’re setting an example here,” he said.
Smoking will be banned at property surrounding state buildings including:
• Parking lots
• State Vehicles
• State parks
• rest areas
• some veterans centers
• State fairgrounds
The Lexington-Fayette County Board of Health is exploring restricting the use of electronic cigarettes in public spaces and how to best educate the public about their dangers.
Describing tobacco companies as "evil," Board Chairman Scott White said there is more news every day about the problems with e-cigarettes. Most of America's big tobacco companies have purchased e-cigarette companies, which are sometimes touted in advertisements as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes.
White, an attorney who has faced Big Tobacco in the courtroom, noted many of the flavors of e-cigarettes, like bubble gum, are targeted at children. "If marketing a deadly product to children isn't evil I don't know what is," said White, who helped lead the state's effort to sue the tobacco companies in the late 1990s.
"We have enough history with the tobacco industry to know we need to get ahead of this," said White, during a meeting of the board Monday.
The exact steps the board of health will take need to be determined. But White said, "everything is on the table".
Options including amending Lexington's current smoking ban to include e-cigarettes and creating a public education campaign.
White also said he planned to send a letter to Superintendent Tom Shelton asking the Fayette County Public School system to join the board in fighting the spread of e-cigarettes.
Ellen Hahn, director of Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy at the University of Kentucky, said five other Kentucky communities restrict e-cigarettes as part of their smoke-free ordinances: Bardstown, Glasgow, Manchester, Danville and Madison County.
Hahn said it's now considered a "best practice" to include electronic cigarettes in smoke-free laws because they are a tobacco product and they pollute the air. E-cigarettes give off tiny particles that can lodge in the lungs and cause disease, she said.
When Lexington passed its ban in 2003, e-cigarettes had not yet been introduced in the United States.
Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, Kentucky's commissioner of public health, told the board the state has a goal of reducing overall smoking by 10 percent.
Public health departments in the state are helping to reduce smoking rates in Kentucky. Mayfield said the rates remain high with about 29 percent of adults smoking and approximately 18 percent people younger than 18.
The state has also reported a leap in nicotine poisonings and that leap has been tied to e-cigarettes.
In April Gov. Steve Beshear signed a law banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.
By Mary Meehan
National Immunization Awareness Month is a reminder that we all need
vaccines right from the start and throughout our lives.
Immunization gives parents the safe, proven power to protect their children from 14 serious and sometimes deadly diseases before they turn 2 years old.
To celebrate the importance of immunizations for a healthy start and throughout our lives – and to make sure children are protected with all the vaccines they need –the Lawrence County Health Department is joining with partners nationwide in recognizing August as National Immunization Awareness Month. The week of August 3 - August 9 will focus specifically on babies from birth through age 2.
“Children who don’t receive recommended vaccines are at risk of getting the disease or illness, and of having a severe case,” said Health Department Director Debbie Miller. “Every dose of every vaccine is important to protect your child and others in the community from infectious diseases. Talk to your doctor or other health care professional to make sure your child is up to date on all the vaccines he or she needs.”
Today’s childhood vaccines protect against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, including polio, measles, whooping cough and chickenpox.
There are many important reasons to make sure your child is vaccinated:
• Immunizations can protect your child from 14 serious diseases.
• Vaccination is very safe and effective.
• Immunizations can protect others you care about.
• Immunization can save your family time and money.
• Immunization protects future generations.
When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk and can spread diseases to others in their family and community – including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions.
Parents can find out more about the recommended immunization schedule at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/index.html or by calling the Lawrence County Health Department at 606-638-4389.
National Immunization Awareness Month is a reminder that we all need vaccines throughout our lives.
Back-to-school season is here. It’s time for parents to gather supplies and back packs. It’s also the perfect time to make sure your kids are up to date on their vaccines.
To celebrate the importance of immunizations throughout life – and make sure children are protected with all the vaccines they need – the Lawrence County Health Department is joining with partners nationwide in recognizing August as National Immunization Awareness Month.
“Getting children all of the vaccines recommended by CDC’s immunization schedule is one of the most important things parents can do to protect their children’s health – and that of classmates and the community,” said Health Department Director Debbie Miller. “If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to check with your doctor to find out what vaccines your child needs.”
Most schools require children to be current on vaccinations before enrolling to protect the health of all students.
Today’s childhood vaccines protect against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, including polio, measles, and whooping cough.
When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk and can spread diseases to others in their classrooms and community – including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer or other health conditions.
School-age children need vaccines. For example, children who are 4 to 6 years old are due for boosters of four vaccines: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), chickenpox, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and polio. Older children, like preteens and teens, need Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), MenACWY (meningococcal conjugate vaccine) and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines when they are 11 to 12. In addition, yearly flu vaccines are recommended for all children 6 months and older.
Parents can find out more about the recommended immunization schedule at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/index.html or at the Lawrence County Health Department, telephone 606-638-4389.
Colon cancer screening saves lives. Yet despite the preventable nature of this disease, colon cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer death in Kentucky. Over 2,600 cases of colon cancer are diagnosed in Kentucky each year, with more than half of those cases diagnosed at a late stage.
Tragic, because when detected early, the 5-year survival rate for colon cancer is more than 90%, and at least 60% of colon cancer deaths could be prevented altogether with regular screenings.
Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program (KCCSP)—a public/private partnership—will again be funding colon cancer screening during 2014-16 for eligible uninsured, low income, legal residents of KY (either citizens or legal immigrants) in fifteen (15) health departments throughout Kentucky.
Health department grants were awarded to:
Barren River District Health Department
Boyle County Health Department - NEW
Christian County Health Department
Fayette County Health Department
Floyd County Health Department
Jessamine County Health Department
Kentucky River District Health Department - NEW
Knox County Health Department - NEW
Lake Cumberland District Health Department
Laurel County Health Department - NEW
Lawrence County Health Department
Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness
Montgomery County Health Department - NEW
Purchase District Health Department - NEW
Wedco District Health Department - NEW
The Kentucky Cancer Program (part of the cancer control programs at University of Kentucky/Markey Cancer Center and University of Louisville/James Graham Brown Cancer Center) will be working with health departments to assist in educating the public about the importance of screening and the availability of the health departments’ colon cancer screening resources.
Men and women who are age 50+ (age 45+ for African Americans) or at high risk for colon cancer should be screened.
Thus far, more than 1212 Kentuckians have been screened through the KCCSP, with 8 cancers detected and 156 patients had polyps detected and removed before they turned into cancer.
KCCSP trained patient navigators will guide patients through the process of being screened for colon cancer, either with a FIT take home test, or a colonoscopy if a patient is at high risk or their FIT is positive.
The KCCSP has not only increased screening, but it’s affected the lives of many Kentuckians. Visit http://www.coloncancerpreventionproject.org/component/content/article/142.html to learn more about the stories of Kentuckians impacted through this life-saving program.
For more information about colon cancer screening in Lawrence County and eligibility for the KCCSP program, call (638-9500). Or, call the regional office of the Kentucky Cancer Program at (793-7006).