An ordinance that would prohibit smoking in local businesses and enclosed public places died due to lack of support by the Grayson County Fiscal Court on Friday, Jan. 15.
Numerous individuals addressed the Fiscal Court during its meeting on Friday to express their opinions on a countywide smoke-free ordinance.
Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center CEO and Population Health Committee Chair Wayne Meriwether addressed the Fiscal Court first, and was followed by a number of hospital staff members, Grayson County High School (GCHS) students, and local business-owners and community members.
Those in support of the passing of an ordinance, including hospital representatives, GCHS students, and business/industry representatives, argued that the health risks of secondhand smoke and the improvement to the community’s overall health that would come as a result of such an ordinance have created a need for a smoke-free Grayson County.
Meriwether said approximately 950 people die annually in Kentucky from secondhand smoke exposure.
Additionally, within the first two years of the passing of a smoke-free ordinance, heart attacks could be reduced by as much as 15 percent, according to Meriwether.
“The people in Grayson County have the right to breathe clean air,” Meriwether said. “…No one has the right to endanger the health of someone else.”
Hospital representatives and GCHS students also referenced a recent survey conducted by the Population Health Committee that stated 82.3 percent of respondents would support a Smoke-Free Grayson County ordinance.
Those who opposed a smoke-free ordinance argued that business-owners should have the right to decide whether they can prohibit smoking in their businesses and that for the government to legislate such a decision goes over the line of legislative overreach.
“I don’t think you or anyone else has the right to tell a private property owner not to allow a legal substance,” Leitchfield Utilities Superintendent Dwight Embry said.
Following the discussion from community members, each of the Fiscal Court magistrates expressed their view on the issue.
District 2 Magistrate Presto Gary said he was glad to see the young people and hospital staff expressing their opinion, but it is not the Magistrates’ place to tell the people in Grayson County what they can and cannot do.
District 1 Magistrate Harold Johnson, who managed tobacco production for 30 years, said that he received numerous calls from his constituents requesting that he support a smoke-free ordinance and, as the voice of the first district, he felt it was his duty to do so.
District 3 Magistrate Bill Skaggs said smoking is a privilege, not a right, and whether it is allowed in businesses and public places should be left up to the people of Grayson County.
Echoing Skaggs’ sentiment were District 6 Magistrate Curtis Wells, who informed the Court he will not run for a sixth term, District 5 Magistrate Brad Brown, and District 4 Magistrate Jason Dennis, all of whom said they felt the issue should be put to a vote by the people of Grayson County, similar to the recent local option election to determine whether Grayson County would legalize the sale of alcohol locally.
However, according to Grayson County Attorney Clay Ratley, according to state law, a smoke-free ordinance cannot be put on a ballot and must be created by the government.
Following the discussion and Magistrates’ comments, Grayson County Judge Executive Gary Logsdon put the creation of a smoke-free ordinance to a vote.
Johnson motioned for the creation of an ordinance, but the motion died due to lack of a second.
Logsdon said he respects the decision of the Fiscal Court and would not support an ordinance banning smoking in businesses and enclosed public places because he feels such a decision should be made by the business-owner, rather than the government, which he feels is already too large.
“Statistics mean nothing,” said Logsdon, of the statistics provided to support a smoke-free ordinance.
While Logsdon said he respects the views of those whom expressed their support of a smoke-free ordinance, he related it to the alcohol discussion by arguing that since the City of Leitchfield voted to allow restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages, nothing new that was promised—i.e. larger, sit-down restaurants, etc.—has come to the community.
Logsdon said he wished the Fiscal Court could have instead voted on alcohol, for he would have voted it “out of the county” because “it kills.”
Following the court’s decision, one GCHS student posed the question of what is the government’s purpose if it is not the government’s responsibility to protect people.
“I’m not black, and I’m not Obama,” said Logsdon, in response. “…And I’m not making you do anything…And I love blacks, and I love whites. I respect blacks, but, you know, I’m not Obama.”
Reach Matt Lasley at 270-259-9622, ext. 2015.