If the London City Council approves the smoking ban ordinance Monday night, London will become the 23rd community in Kentucky to do so.

London would join Louisville, Lexington, Georgetown, Morehead, Ashland, Elizabethtown, Danville, Campbellsville, Hardin County Madison County, Woodford County and Clark County in enacting a comprehensive ban, meaning smoking is prohibited in all public places.

While the respective city councils or fiscal courts enacted the ban in their particular areas, in 2006, the Madison County Board of Health approved regulation that prohibits smoking in public places.

“There are no exceptions for anybody, anywhere,” Madison County Judge-Executive Kent Clark said.

Clark said before the regulation was approved, it was reviewed by county attorneys for any potential legal challenges. He said there were some initial issues as residents got used to the new regulations, but he said it has become a habit for people to extinguish their cigarettes before going inside a public building.

Laurel County Public Heath Director Mark Hensley said it is possible for the Laurel County Board of Health to do something similar to Madison County, but there has been no discussion by board members.

“We support the city’s ordinance,” Hensley said, noting if the board of health enacted that regulation, it would be countywide.

Soon after the council passed the first reading of the ordinance, there was discussion of a possible exemption for The Bingo Zone, which is the primary source of funding for the Laurel County Fire Department.

Hershel Blanton, chairman of the Board of the Laurel County Fire Department, said the department receives about 96 percent of its funding from bingo. An unofficial survey showed that 75 to 80 percent of the estimated 200 to 300 bingo players at a given session are smokers.

Worried that the bingo players will go elsewhere if they are forced to go outside to smoke, Blanton said he wants the council to consider an exemption for the Bingo Zone.

Council Member Jason Handy said while he had not heard many comments one way or the other about the ordinance, the exemption issue had his phone ringing off the hook.

“I got a lot of calls saying, ‘Don’t exempt anyone,’” Handy said.

Council Member Danny Phelps said his phone has been quiet concerning the smoking ban.

“I have not heard anything at all,” he said.

Kristin Wagner, technical assistance coordinator for the University of Kentucky’s Clean Indoor Air Partnership, said while permitting smoking in the bingo halls does adversely affect the health of the workers and non-smoking patrons, prohibiting smoking does not decrease the revenue taken in at the bingo halls.

In a study by the Clean Air Partnership, Wagner said attendance and revenue increased after the smoking ban was enacted.

The council will meet in regular session at 5:30 p.m. Monday to discuss the second reading of the ordinance. London Mayor Troy Rudder said if the council elects to make any significant changes to the ordinance, such as adding the exemption, the ordinance would have to go through two readings.

“We would be back to square one,” Rudder said.

Staff writer Dean Manning may be reached at dmanning@sentinel-echo.com.

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