Thousands Quit Smoking After Lexington Smoking Ban

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - If the air in Lexington seems clearer, there's a reason for it. In the first 20 months after a citywide indoor smoking ban took effect, an estimated 16,467 Lexington adults put out their cigarettes for good.

Lexington's percentage of adult smokers dropped by nearly one-third since the city's indoor smoking ban was implemented in April 2004, according to UK College of Nursing researchers, who released their study Monday.

Researchers analyzed information gathered in federal health interviews with 3,457 Kentuckians in six counties between 2001 and 2005 in an effort to determine how much adult smoking rates changed. Federal health surveys found that 25.7 percent of Fayette County adults smoked before the ban, but in the months after the smoking ban was implemented, just 17.5 percent of Fayette County adults reported being smokers.

Before the ban, federal data estimated that 53,444 Fayette County adults smoked. After the ban, it was 36,977.

"What has been really interesting is how powerful this ordinance has been here," said Ellen Hahn, a UK professor of nursing who pushed for the smoking ban and co-authored the report. "A 32 percent drop is a huge thing."

She expected a decline in the smoking rate, Hahn said. "But not the magnitude that it is."

Researchers compared federal health data from Lexington to that of five other counties with similar education levels, but without smoke-free laws at the time: Boone, Hardin, Kenton, Oldham and Woodford. While the smoking rate plummeted in Lexington, the percentage of smokers in the five comparison counties was unchanged during the time before and after implementation of Lexington's smoke-free law, averaging 27.6 percent in those counties.

Dr. Melinda Rowe, commissioner of the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, said that when it comes to public health and smoking cessation, people get excited about decreases as small as 1 percent or 2 percent across a population. Thirty-two percent is almost beyond imagination and is likely to have a major impact on rates of smoking-related illnesses, she said.
Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader,

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)