Glasgow Daily Times
Our eye was caught this week by an intriguing anti-smoking movement afoot in Utah and Colorado, where lawmakers propose raising the legal smoking age to 21. In Kentucky – where tobacco production has long been a part of our livelihood, but above-average tobacco use contributes to an array of serious health problems – a statewide indoor smoking ban is a touchy subject. In the General Assembly, smoking-ban bills have consistently been nonstarters.
It’s hard to imagine Kentucky won’t eventually pass a statewide ban. Anti-smoking momentum is obvious nationally, and scientific and medical data clearly describe the perils of tobacco use. But the political wheels will understandably turn slower in the commonwealth. Any statewide ban might be years away.
In the meantime, though, an intermediate step, such as raising the smoking age to 21, could be prudent. Research shows the vast majority of smokers pick up the habit in their teenage years, which is reason enough to increase the degree of difficulty teenagers face in obtaining cigarettes. We hardly believe such a move would eliminate teen smoking – the drinking age of 21 doesn’t eliminate underage alcohol consumption, after all – but it’s a starting point on the path toward a healthier state.
Frankly, as inevitable as a statewide ban might be, we are unconvinced a blanket decree is appropriate or necessary. Municipalities around Kentucky, including Glasgow and Bowling Green, have adopted their own smoking regulations, and we see little evidence these measures are insufficient. Statewide bans give us pause, because we wonder how far regulations dictating the use of a legal product will go.
Still, supporting a person’s right to smoke is much different than suggesting smoking is the right thing to do, and we’d eagerly consider alternate approaches to the problem, such as the proposals in Utah and Colorado.
We’re not ready to endorse a statewide ban, but we see no harm in asking Kentuckians to wait a little longer to light up.