- Associated Press - Thursday, February 6, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A proposed statewide smoking ban at workplaces and in public buildings won bipartisan backing Thursday while breezing through a House committee in a state with historic ties to the tobacco industry.

Supporters said the measure would protect nonsmokers from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

“We’re saving lives,” Democratic Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington, the bill’s lead sponsor, said afterward. “We’re allowing people to have clean air that’s breathable.”

The measure was approved by the House Health and Welfare Committee on a 10-3 vote.

Opponents included Republican Rep. Tim Moore, who said the bill encroaches on the use of a legal product.

“This is too far-reaching and impacts people’s liberty and freedom,” he said.

Westrom sponsored similar proposals in recent sessions, but supporters couldn’t muster enough support.

She made her latest pitch Thursday alongside Republican Sen. Julie Denton of Louisville, who is leading the push in her chamber for the statewide ban. There’s a patchwork of local smoking bans in Kentucky.

Denton acknowledged the challenge of passing sweeping anti-smoking restrictions in a state that typically posts some of the nation’s highest smoking rates.

“I know that it’s going to take some ‘profiles in courage’ to get some people to vote on this bill because it may not be popular to smokers back home,” Denton said in a Senate speech Wednesday.

Denton acknowledged Thursday that the individual-choice argument will be the toughest obstacle for smoking ban supporters to overcome.

“Your personal choice ends when it infringes upon my health,” she told reporters.

House Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Tom Burch said nonsmokers are the clear majority of society, and they shouldn’t be put at risk because of an unhealthy habit by others.

“Why should 75 percent of the people suffer because 25 percent of the people want to kill themselves?” the Louisville Democrat asked.

The bill would prohibit smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces. It would apply to bars and restaurants, as well as manufacturing facilities, professional offices and most other workplaces.

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