(FOX19) - A bill banning smoking in shared public spaces is dead in the Bluegrass State. The political outcome leaves Kentucky one of just ten states without a statewide smoking ban and, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, is going to hit taxpayers with higher healthcare costs.
More people smoke in Kentucky than anywhere else in the country. It's a popular habit that comes with a hefty price tag.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the Bluegrass State spends approximately $1.5 billion annually in smoking related healthcare costs. Of that $1.5 billion, Kentucky spent $487 million on smoking related Medicaid costs. That was before the Affordable Care Act which recently added nearly 300-thousand new Medicaid enrollees.
Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the ban died because it had been "steadily losing support."
Betsy Janes with Smoke-Free Kentucky says the bill lost support as the result of a disconnect between lawmaker and their constituents.
"It's an election year and some legislators are under the false impression that this will hurt them in the upcoming election," she tells FOX19.
Janes has the numbers to back her claim. According to recent polling, 65 percent of Kentuckians now support a statewide ban. Janes says the bill might have passed had some lawmakers not waffled on their positions.
"As advocates, we've been really disheartened by the whole process because we've gotten pledges of support which have fallen short," she adds.
Many Kentucky communities have their own anti-smoking legislation on the books and it's paying off. Lexington's smoke-free ordinance has resulted in more than 16-thousand Kentuckians quitting with a savings to taxpayers of $21-million, but the bottom line is this. With Obamacare creating hundreds of thousands of new Medicaid recipients, the decision not to impose a statewide smoking ban means the cost of healthcare in Kentucky is only going to get more expensive.