FRANKFORT, Ky. — The son of a tobacco farmer running for governor in Kentucky endorsed a statewide smoking ban in most workplaces on Tuesday, a sign of the evolving tobacco politics in a state once dominated by the cancer-causing
Adam Edelen grew up on a tobacco farm in Meade County and said he was raised to believe “Santa Claus lived in the tobacco patch.” But in a state with one of the highest adult and youth smoking rates in the country, Edelen said he felt compelled to endorse a plan that would ban smoking at enclosed workplaces, including bars and restaurants with three or more employees. Facilities that specialize in tobacco products and services would be exempt, he said.
“I also understand, I think better than anybody, the cultural hold that tobacco has had on Kentucky,” Edelen said. “But Kentuckians have got to stop being victims of our history. We’ve got to start building a better future.”
For decades, tobacco was an important cash crop that formed a pillar of this rural state’s economy. But like the coal industry, tobacco has faltered recently because of a mix of market and political forces. Now, state regulators have painted anti-smoking murals on former tobacco barns that once filled
Kentucky’s major cities have had public smoking bans in place for years. And most workplaces already ban smoking. But many rural areas of the state don’t have smoking bans, and it’s still OK to light a cigarette in some rural manufacturing plants and bars and restaurants, including bingo halls, according to Bonnie Hackbarth, spokeswoman for the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.