Puffed Out! Glasgow, KY, Goes Smoke-Free in Public Spaces

Glasgow, KY, to ban smoking in public buildings

Shelley Wood

March 28, 2010

March 26, 2010 (Glasgow, KY) - Capping what may be one of the most rancorous and divisive fights ever chronicled on theheart.org, a small town in the heart of Kentucky's tobacco belt will soon have cleaner air in its public buildings. Earlier this week, the city council for Glasgow, KY voted 6-5 to ban smoking in enclosed public spaces.

theheart.org's forum moderator and blogger Dr Melissa Walton-Shirley, has spearheaded the movement in her home town to prohibit smoking in public buildings, canvassing door-to-door for signatures and speaking at council hearings. With passion and humor, she has recounted her progress, setbacks, and the personal toll they've taken in theheart.org's forum.

"I would love to celebrate, but there is still so much work to do in our population of patients," Walton-Shirley told heartwire after the vote. "Now we really, in earnest, need to implement all of the things we've tried to educate our patients with. We need to go into schools and talk more about tobacco addiction, and beef up our prevention strategies. Now it's really time to roll up our sleeves and get to work."

A first reading of the ordinance squeaked through in favor of the ban several weeks ago, 7-6, after Mayor Darrell Pickett cast a tie-breaker vote, keeping a promise he'd made to his own doctor to support the ban. A second and final reading this week passed in a vote of 6-5, without the mayor voting: one of the councilors opposed to the ban was absent due to illness.

Another councilor opposed to the ban had collected 900 signatures from citizens sharing his views, but the council opted not to consider the petition.

When the ordinance takes effect in 90 days, businesses permitting smoking will be fined $25 for the first offense, $100 for the second offense, and $250 for the third and subsequent offenses. If the person smoking is actually the business owner, the fines will be doubled. Anyone smoking who refuses to leave the business premises could face charges of trespassing.

Tobacco culture and the winds of change

The battle to limit secondhand smoke exposure has been a particularly tough fight in a region where tobacco was, for years, the principal crop, and many citizens were vehemently opposed to the ban. News reports from the two council votes included quotes from some of the citizens opposed to the ban, including a deli owner who called the council's decision undemocratic. "Our country is supposed to be a democracy, and the entire fate of the city of Glasgow was placed in the hands of six people," Janet Sadler is quoted by the Bowling Green Daily News. "They just slammed the faces of tobacco growers in this area that raise [millions] of pounds . . . of tobacco, many of whom were at the meeting last night."

Another opponent, from a nearby county, referred to the "antismoking scam" as similar to the "global-warming scam" and accused physicians in favor of the ban of receiving money from drug companies, the Glasgow Daily Times reported. "We have mountains of junk science, and why should I trust a doctor that takes kickbacks from the drug industry and then lies to me about smoking?" Linda Farley said.

Walton-Shirley says she has been getting pats on the back and Facebook messages congratulating her all week, but the victory has not yet sunk in: her father, once a tobacco farmer, was recently hospitalized for advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

"My father a long time ago opposed me on this, but after he lost so many friends and family to tobacco, he actually congratulated me for what I've been doing," Walton-Shirley said. "In fact, he watched the council meeting from his hospital bed, where he's being treated for tobacco-related illness."

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