Kentucky editorial roundup

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Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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June 24

Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader on Kentucky and smoking:

A decade into its pioneering smoking ban, Ireland is dancing to a happy tune of more tourists and healthier people.

Meanwhile, Kentucky is stuck in its same old dirge of addiction, denial and early death.

The contrast between the smoke-free isle and Kentucky’s No. 1 rankings in smoking and cancer could not be more discouraging.

The latest example came last week, when the Kentucky Supreme Court blocked local health boards from protecting the public from the deadly effects of breathing other people’s smoke.

The court struck down a smoke-free regulation enacted in 2011 by the Bullitt County Board of Health.

The decision was a victory for the elected Bullitt Fiscal Court and the county’s eight city councils, which challenged the health board’s action.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously. But the opinion’s author, Justice Bill Cunningham, had to strain and stretch to explain away a century of high-court decisions upholding public health boards’ authority and duty to protect Kentuckians’ health.

In last week’s ruling, the high court relied heavily on the legislature’s intent when it enacted a key enabling law in 1954, no doubt, Cunningham wrote, “in chambers fogged with a haze of smoke.”

Lawmakers, the court reasoned, would not “have remotely foreseen” that 60 years later a health board would use its authority to ban smoking in public places.

Of course, lawmakers also would not have foreseen bioterrorism, HIV, MRSA, food-borne hepatitis outbreaks, the birth control pill or the polio vaccine that was not introduced until 1955.

Binding public health officials to what Kentucky lawmakers might have anticipated in 1954 falls far short of judicious.

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