These painful memories surfaced as health and university officials were poised to release a report that says Lincoln countians breathe a harmful level of secondhand smoke when they eat in restaurants.
The report was done by the University of Kentucky in conjunction with the Lincoln County Health Department.
Secondhand smoke contains at least 250 chemicals that are known to be toxic and there is no safe level of secondhand smoke, the study says.
About 20 persons attended the news conference, held at the Lincoln County Health Department, including personnel from the health department and school system, but neither the city council nor the fiscal court was represented.
The air-quality study was conducted in nine restaurants and one "entertainment venue" in Lincoln County from Thursday, Feb. 8 through Saturday, Feb. 12, 2008, according to the report by the UK College of Nursing and the Department of Environmental Health within the UK College of Public Health. Researchers refused to release the names of the establishments that were tested.
The study was done discreetly at sites of various sizes with some individually owned and others part of a chain, with an average of 35 patrons per establishment and 2.2 burning cigarettes seen during the study, the report says. No smoke free venues were evaluated
The data show that indoor air pollution in the Lincoln County establishments was 5.6 times higher than in Lexington establishments and 11.3 times higher than in Louisville establishments after those cities' implementation of comprehensive smoke-free laws, according to the report.
Comprehensive smoke-free laws completely prohibit smoking and significantly improve air quality; partial smoke-free laws fail to protect workers and patrons from harmful indoor air pollution, the report says.
The report is part of an effort by the Lincoln County Board of Health to adopt a county-wide comprehensive smoke-free law.
At a special meeting March 25, the board of health discussed possibly expanding the county's anti-smoking policies. Last year, members of the student-based Lincoln County Champions Coalition, led by Lee Ann Taylor, Lincoln County Health Department Senior Health Educator, fought successfully to get smoking banned in all county facilities, and the Board of Health would like to capitalize on their victory.
At the meeting, Dr. Rod Bates, board chairman, asked not whether we have the right to smoke but the right to subject others to secondhand smoke.
James Rousey, the public health director of Madison County, gave a how-to presentation on anti-smoking successes in his county. Madison County went smoke-free in all public places in 2007. It took more than four years to successfully pass and implement the ban, and Mr. Rousey reduced all of the effort to eight steps.
The plan starts with raising the awareness of citizens and leaders of the dangers of smoking and exposure of others to smoking and ends with implementation of a complete public smoking ban.
The board formed a committee to review information regarding indoors air-quality ordinances. Dr. Forest Calico, Dr. Bates, and pharmacist Alfred Pence comprise the committee. The committee's mission is to study the issue and report back to the board on "how to proceed with implementation of (an) ordinance."
Dr. Calico, who has been honored as a rural hero by the the First National Rural Assembly for his work in rural health, spoke at the press conference. He sees part of the problem to be that Lincoln County is a tobacco producer in a post-tobacco economy. He said that the fight to end smoking in the county is just beginning to gain momentum, but to make progress "we must be future oriented." Dr. Calico's vision for the future of agriculture sees Lincoln Count as a potential "breadbasket of the state," where most of food is grown locally, and farmers switch from tobacco to switch grass to produce ethanol.