Tobacco farmer’s son endorses smoking ban in most workplaces

In this Nov 3, 2015 file photo, Democratic candidate for State Auditor Adam Edelen speaks to his supporters at the Kentucky Democratic Party event at the Frankfort Convention Center on election day in Frankfort, Ky. (AP)
Updated 06 February 2019
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Tobacco farmer’s son endorses smoking ban in most workplaces

  • Kentucky’s Republican-controlled legislature raised cigarette taxes by 50 cents last year, bringing total taxes to $1.10 a pack

FRANKFORT, Kentucky: The son of a tobacco farmer running for governor in Kentucky endorsed a statewide smoking ban in most workplaces on Tuesday, a sign of the evolving tobacco politics in a state once dominated by the cancer-causing cash crop.
Adam Edelen grew up on a tobacco farm in Meade County and said he was raised to believe “Santa Claus lived in the tobacco patch.” But in a state with one of the highest adult and youth smoking rates in the country, Edelen said he felt compelled to endorse a plan that would ban smoking at enclosed workplaces, including bars and restaurants with three or more employees. Facilities that specialize in tobacco products and services would be exempt, he said.
“I also understand, I think better than anybody, the cultural hold that tobacco has had on Kentucky,” Edelen said. “But Kentuckians have got to stop being victims of our history. We’ve got to start building a better future.”
For decades, tobacco was an important cash crop that formed a pillar of this rural state’s economy. But like the coal industry, tobacco has faltered recently because of a mix of market and political forces. Now, state regulators have painted anti-smoking murals on former tobacco barns that once filled the countryside.
Kentucky’s major cities have had public smoking bans in place for years. And most workplaces already ban smoking. But many rural areas of the state don’t have smoking bans, and it’s still OK to light a cigarette in some rural manufacturing plans and bars and restaurants, including bingo halls, according to Bonnie Hackbarth, spokeswoman for the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. Out of Kentucky’s 173 school districts, 99 do not ban tobacco products on school property or at school-sponsored events.
Legislative efforts to pass a statewide workplace smoking ban in Kentucky have stalled in recent years. Tobacco companies have spent millions of dollars lobbying the state legislature and are often among the top spenders for each session.
But public support for a statewide smoking ban has been growing. A 2017 poll by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky found more than seven in 10 people in Kentucky supported a statewide smoking ban, according to a telephone survey of 1,580 adults that had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent.
“I think one of the reasons that we’ve not been successful in getting this passed is we haven’t had governors lead form the front on this issue,” Edelen said.
At least 25 states have enacted workplace smoking bans, and another five states have banned smoking in bars and restaurants, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who is running for re-election, has said smoking bans should be a local issue. But he has chosen for his running mate Republican state Sen. Ralph Alvarado, a medical doctor who has led the fight for a statewide smoking ban.
Recently, Alvarado and other lawmakers have shifted their focus to ban all tobacco products at Kentucky’s public schools and school-sponsored events, a proposal that is gaining traction in the state legislature this year.
“It isn’t as simple as a governor saying, ‘I want it,’ or not. You have to have the buy-in of the legislature,” Alvarado said.
Kentucky’s Republican-controlled legislature raised cigarette taxes by 50 cents last year, bringing total taxes to $1.10 a pack. Lawmakers used the extra money to balance the budget, which included an increase in public education spending.
Tuesday, Edelen proposed increasing the cigarette tax to the national average of $1.70 a pack. He said he would use some of the extra money on smoking cessation programs. Edelen said he is a former smoker who quit “cold turkey” when his sons were born.
“I am not a nanny state candidate. I believe If you want to smoke you should be able to,” he said. “But I also believe those who choose not to smoke, those who choose to protect their health in the workplace or the health of their children have a right to a law that protects them.”
Edelen is one of four Democrats running for governor this year. The others are state Attorney General Andy Beshear, state House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins and former state employee Geoff Young.
On the Republican side, Bevin is seeking re-election but faces challenges from William Woods, Ike Lawrence and state Rep. Robert Goforth.
The Republican and Democratic primaries are May 21.


Russia’s Port of Vladivostok prepares to host Kim Jong Un

Updated 19 April 2019
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Russia’s Port of Vladivostok prepares to host Kim Jong Un

  • Russian media were quick to report preparations were underway for the summit to take place in Vladivostok
  • Proximity is no doubt important for Kim, who is rumored to travel aboard his armored train

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected in Russia’s far-eastern port Vladivostok in the coming days, according to reports that have prompted excitement and concern among local residents.
After weeks of speculation, the Kremlin announced that Kim will visit Russia to hold his first talks with President Vladimir Putin in late April. It gave no details on a date or place, citing “security reasons.”
Russian media were quick to report preparations were underway for the summit to take place in Vladivostok, home to Moscow’s Pacific Fleet.
The port lies only about 130 kilometers (80 miles) from Russia’s short border with North Korea. This proximity is no doubt important for Kim, who is rumored to travel aboard his armored train.
The 35-year-old will be following in the footsteps of his father Kim Jong Il, who met the newly elected Putin in Vladivostok in 2002.
The far eastern city rarely sees major international events, and some locals are happy for the city to be in the spotlight.
“Any visit is good, whether it’s an enemy or a friend,” said Danil, a student at Vladivostok’s Far Eastern Federal University, billed by the media as a possible venue for the summit.
He welcomed the talks, saying “you can only make decisions through dialogue and communication.”
Nadezhda, a native of the city, said it will be a global event and “will be a boost for development in our city.”
Authorities this week were busy cleaning garbage near railways leading to the city, Russian media reported.
“The depressing view from the train window does not give a positive impression to guests of Vladivostok arriving by train,” an official from the local branch of Russian Railways told the Interfax news agency.
Nadezhda said she was “absolutely not afraid of (North Korea’s) nuclear program” and would like to see the country.
North Korea said this week it was testing nuclear weapons after a round of talks with the US ended in failure.
But Anna Marinina was less enthusiastic about the summit, and said that if Pyongyang did use its weapons, Vladivostok would be in the firing line.
“The people that panic the most about North Korea are safe on the other side of the ocean,” she said.
“If something were to happen, it would fall on us.”
Putin has long said he was ready to meet with Kim and is preparing to play a bigger role in nuclear negotiations with Moscow’s Cold War-era ally.
The last meeting between Russian and North Korean heads of state was in 2011, when Kim’s father traveled by train to Siberia, where he took a boat ride on Lake Baikal and held tightly guarded talks with then president Dmitry Medvedev.
There is a chance however that fresh talks will not take place at all, as Kim pulled out of 2015 celebrations in Moscow for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II at the last minute.