Leading Tobacco-Growing State Bans Smoking on Government Property

You can no longer light up on the steps of a Kentucky town hall. 

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Kentucky is responsible for the second largest tobacco production (North Carolina beats it by a hair) in the United States. Tobacco is quite literally everywhere in Kentucky, between farms, curing barns and roadside advertisements for cheap smokes. Yet, this leading industry is now being banned from the government buildings in which legislation promoting it was once written.

On Thursday, Governor Steve Beshear signed an order banning smoking, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes from all 3,400 state properties, both owned and leased. This is an update to a 2006 order which banned smoking inside buildings. "Smoking and tobacco use are the single-biggest causes of preventable illness and death in our state. This policy will protect non-smokers from the effects of secondhand smoke, and encourage tobacco users to seek help in quitting," said Beshear in a statement.

This order will go into effect November 20th. Around 5,000 of Kentucky's 33,000 state employees use tobacco of some kind regularly. Though this does certainly change Kentucky's smoking landscape, parks and rest areas are not included in the ban.

Tobacco was once king crop in Kentucky, but it has fallen a great deal from its glory days. In the 1990s, tobacco brought in about $900 million per year. In 2009, it was only $380 million. From 2002 to 2007, tobacco farming decreased in Kentucky by 72 percent, accordingly to a study by Will Snell at the University of Kentucky.

Hopefully, this move by the government will set the tone for young Kentuckians. As of June 20th, 2014, almost 18 percent of high school students in Kentucky were smokers, above the national rate of 15.7 percent. 28.3 percent of adults in Kentucky smoke, well above the national rate of 18.1 percent. This smoking costs health care providers in Kentucky $1.92 billion, $487 million of which is covered by Medicaid. That's $591 per household. Not only could this move by the government of Kentucky help preserve the health of its citizens, but it can also help cut down on major health care costs.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.