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Health Advocates Making Final Push for Tobacco-Free Schools

The American Lung Association and other health advocates will gather in Frankfort on Thursday in hopes of rescuing legislation that would make all of Kentucky's public schools 100% tobacco-free.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky’s signature piece of legislation this year is stalled in the waning days of the 30-day session of the General Assembly.

HB 11 would prohibit cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and vaping items both during and after school hours.Polling last year found 87 percent support among the public for smoke-free schools.  The measure sailed through the House Health and Human Services Committee early in the session. 

Speaking Tuesday from the state Capitol, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky CEO Ben Chandler said he’s perplexed as to why leadership hasn't brought the measure up for a vote on the House floor.

“It’s a real interesting circumstance up here," Chandler told WKU Public Radio. "It’s not what you’d expect it to be, but the tobacco companies have outsized influence in Frankfort still.”

Chandler says he’s confident there are enough votes to pass the measure in the House and likes the prospects in the Senate too where it passed in a previous session. 

Forty-six percent of the state’s public schools have adopted smoke-free policies on their own, but Chandler says that leaves more than half of the student population unprotected from tobacco exposure.

A separate bill raising the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 failed to clear a Senate committee this week. 

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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