No Smoking

By: Courtney Lassiter Email
By: Courtney Lassiter Email

Kentucky's tobacco industry is still thriving despite the push to ban smoking in public places.

The possibility of Bowling Green becoming Kentucky's fourth smoke-free city is still up in the air.

If Bowling Green does go smoke free, we'd join Louisville and Lexington.

Bowling Green's City Commission has yet to propose an ordinance banning smoking in public buildings including restaurants, but we polled the city commissioners this afternoon.

Mayor Elaine Walker is strongly in favor of the smoking ban and Commissioner Brian "Slim" Nash has publicly stated he's also in favor of a smoking ban.

Commissioner Brian Strow is against a smoking ban, while Commissioners Bruce Wilkerson and Joe Denning say they're still researching the issue.

As you can see, the city commission only needs one more vote to determine whether or not Bowling Green goes smoke free.

The ban would effect everyone from tobacco growers to consumers.

"That's the main thing for me - as a small business owner is the choice, I'm not a smoker myself," Teresa Blair said.

Blair said she doesn't know what she'll do if a smoking ban comes to Bowling Green - smokers are her business.

"It's gonna hurt. it's gonna hurt for a while because they're working class people where they gather and talk about crops and how they are," Blaire said.

Farmers like Ronnie Hargett go to places like Teresa's Diner in Bowling Green.

Although Ronnie doesn't smoke, he grows tobacco and believes some regulation on tobacco is needed.

"I think sometimes we take it way beyond the limit - as far as restaurants going smoke free, I think that should strictly be a business decision," Hargett said.

Four-forty Main in Fountain Square Park went smoke free more than a year ago.

"Did it affect my business? Absolutely," owner, Tom Holmes said.

He said he was sick of smelling like second-hand smoke and feeling it's effects a day later.

"I chose to do what I did. I would love to see the city go non-smoking," Holmes said, but he admits his decision to make his restaurant smoke free has cost him some bar customers.

"My bar patrons get a little mad at me because you have to step outside," Holmes said.

Right now, those very patrons have the choice to step outside at 440 and light up or sit in the designated smoking section at a restaurant like Teresa's.

"The biggest concern for small businesses, is if they stop this, what's going to be next," Blair asked.

"A lot of the funds tobacco has generated has been able to send kids to college and get educated," Hargett said and Blair agreed. "I'm an old country girl and tobacco bought me a lot of Christmases."

Which is why Teresa won't ban smoking in her restaurant unless city government steps in.

"It's like biting the hand that feeds you," Hargett explained.

The tobacco industry in Kentucky feels any future in their business will come from overseas consumption.

They also say local smoking bans will have little affect on tobacco production since they've seen tobacco use in the U.S. decline in recent years.

For more on tobacco and smoking regulations, click here.


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