Hundreds of Kentucky residents, along with state officials and coalition members rallied in Frankfort for a statewide smoking ban on Thursday.
Former UK basketball star Derek Anderson, Gov. Steve Beshear, state representatives and Smoke Free Coalition members were all in attendance.
The Kentucky Legislature's Health and Welfare Committee passed a proposal that would make it illegal to smoke in public places earlier this week. House Bill 190 would protect patrons from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke while allowing smokers to light up outside.
Twenty-seven communities across Kentucky have already enacted restrictions on smoking in public places.
"I think [the smoking ban] is a good idea in general for the overall health," said Kentucky native Brian Tucker. "I'm aware of the effects of second hand smoke and I believe that smokers have rights, but I believe that non-smokers have rights too and if you want to smoke you can walk outside just as easy."
However, the Kentucky proposal has met quite a large opposition.The state has the highest rate of smoking in the nation. It is estimated that 25% of Kentuckians smoke on a regular basis. Smokers say that the proposal would violate their rights.
Many bars and businesses fear that a smoking ban would be bad for business.
"I think it's going to drive [business] away," said Kentucky bartender Jason Abbott. "For those people that like to smoke, they can go to a smoking restaurant and for those who don't like to smoke they can go to a non-smoking restaurant. Free enterprise has worked pretty well just the way it is and to tell people they don't have a choice I think is wrong."
The economic impact of tobacco can not be denied. Tobacco has brought billions of dollars to the state of Kentucky. However,there is also a clear health risk associated with the presence of tobacco. Kentucky has the highest rate of lung cancer in the nation.