City of Dayton may soon be smoke-free

Photo by Julia Engel on Unsplash.

The City of Dayton could be smoke-free in the near future.

At the next city council meeting on July 19, there will be a first reading of a proposed ordinance regulating smoking in the Campbell County city.

Dayton City Administrator Jay Fossett said that currently it is up to each business to make a decision about whether to allow indoor smoking. Restaurants like Hometown Heroes in Dayton are already smoke-free; but if an ordinance regulates indoor smoking, other businesses and restaurants would have to follow suit.  

According to data from the the University of Kentucky, as of April 1, 36.7% of Kentuckians are protected by smoke-free laws covering indoor work and public places. Kentucky ranks as the second-highest state, behind West Virginia, for the number of smokers among residents. Twenty-four percent of Northern Kentuckians smoke compared to 15.3% nationally.

Statistics show that 22 percent of Campbell County residents smoke, according to Breathe Easy Northern Kentucky.

Breathe Easy Northern Kentucky is a coalition made up of organizations like the OneNKY Alliance, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, and the Northern Kentucky Health Department, gave a presentation at the last Dayton City Council meeting on June 7 to educate the city on smoke-free policies.

Kenton County is the only county in Northern Kentucky that regulates smoking in public buildings and places of employment. It implemented a partial ban in 2011.

Stuart Zorn from the OneNKY Alliance said at the meeting that smoke-free ordinances reduce exposure to secondhand smoke for employees and the public and are also proven to help reduce tobacco use. But indoor smoke-free policies are only effective if they are comprehensive across the area.

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Business owners may be concerned with how smoke-free regulations would impact business. Brent Cooper, president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and a small business owner, said that research had debunked that concern.

“This is something that around the state people have adopted, and this is why, because smoking costs businesses a lot, costs our economy a lot,” Cooper said.

Cooper shared a statistic that businesses incur $5,816 per employee in lost productivity due to smoking-related illnesses.

He also shared research from the American Cancer Society that found the impact of smoke-free policies in Kentucky shows either a positive impact or no impact on restaurant and bar revenues.

Family Practitioner Dr. Michael Gieske has served as director of Lung Cancer Screening at St. Elizabeth for the past four years. He shared during the presentation that Kentucky is 55% higher than the national average in lung cancer diagnoses. The state was also ranked the worst nationally in lung cancer diagnoses, coinciding with it being ranked second for the number of smokers.

Bar graph showing Kentucky ranks the worst nationally for lung cancer diagnosis and it 55% higher than the national average.

At the meeting, the Superintendent of Dayton Independent Schools, Jay Brewer, spoke about how secondhand smoke and smoking affects kids.  

“I spend a lot of time thinking about kids, what’s best for kids, and I often reflect on what adults need to do that’s best for kids,” Brewer said. “And I’ve been thinking about the smoking thing pretty good here, and I’ve been asking myself lately, what if our kids never saw an adult smoke? Would kids ever smoke?”

Just over 20% of Northern Kentucky’s 10th-grade students reported e-cigarette use in the past month, according to Breathe Easy Northern Kentucky.

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Brewer said to combat vaping among students in Dayton’s schools, the city has purchased metal detector wands to help locate smoking devices. They have also begun renovating all the high school bathrooms to include vaping sensors.

The manufacturer of JUUL e-cigarettes has reported that a single JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes.

Breathe Easy Northern Kentucky’s presentation said children living in counties with smoke-free policies are 15% less likely to smoke.

“I will say it’s real as far as the use of tobacco in our schools and in particular the use of nicotine products and e-cigarettes,” Brewer said. “I believe anything that we can do to help reduce this situation for our kids is great. I strongly believe that kids will be what they see. I believe our kids have the right to smoke-free restaurants, smoke-free workplaces, and of course, smoke-free parks.”

Brewer said he 100% supported Dayton in taking the lead in Northern Kentucky to go smoke-free.

“It cost the city nothing. It will improve public health. Most importantly, it will send a message to all of the other cities in Northern Kentucky that public health matters,” Cooper said. “That good health is good business.”