Employment Law Report
Smoke Signals: The Proposed Smokefree Kentucky Act
Several years ago, when smoking bans in public places were just beginning to be implemented, a cartoon appeared in the New Yorker, showing a person looking quizzically at an alien who had just gotten out of a spacecraft. “We’ve come here to smoke,” the alien explained.
Kentucky smokers may soon have to figure out their best strategy for continuing the habit, especially if the General Assembly adopts HB 193 (the proposed “Smokefree Kentucky Act”) as law.
HB 193 would prohibit smoking in all public places and places of employment, and make violations punishable by citations and fines of up to $2,500 for repeated violations. The proposed bill would mandate that an employer require an employee who is smoking to stop, to make the employee leave if he won’t stop, and to call law enforcement officers if he won’t leave.
Kentucky and Oregon are presently the only two states that have statutory protections for tobacco users. According to KRS 344.040, which is part of Kentucky’s Civil Rights Act, employers cannot discriminate against workers who smoke or use other tobacco products outside the workplace, so long as the workers comply with workplace bans on smoking. Likewise, employers cannot require as a condition of employment that any employee or applicant abstain from smoking or using tobacco products outside the workplace. Employers may lawfully require smokers to pay higher health insurance premiums in employee-sponsored health plans, and may offer smoking cessation benefits or incentives.
If HB 193 becomes law, employers (and certainly operators of public places) may need to create a Smoke Patrol, so as to avoid penalties themselves if they fail to enforce the smoking ban. The bill as presently drafted does not appear to cover uses of tobacco other than smoking.
HB 193 was introduced in the Kentucky House of Representatives on January 6, 2011, and went to the Health and Welfare Committee the next day.