Bullitt health board passes smoking ban, legal challenge pending

Published: Mar. 23, 2011 at 4:21 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2011 at 2:27 PM EDT
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Judge-Executive Melanie Roberts
Judge-Executive Melanie Roberts
Swannie Jett
Swannie Jett
Jesse Broughton
Jesse Broughton
Bullitt County Health Board voting on the smoking ban
Bullitt County Health Board voting on the smoking ban

By Connie Leonard - bio | email

SHEPHERDSVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A smoking ban for Bullitt County is official. Tuesday night, the county's health board voted in favor of not lighting up in public buildings. Businesses must go cold turkey by September. But a legal battle is still brewing.

Bullitt County health officials tell us they recommended the smoking ban after they got back poor air quality tests and found out more than 75 percent of residents polled were in favor of a ban. Despite that, Judge-Executive Melanie Roberts and the Fiscal Court still want a judge to decide if it's legal.

Roberts, who also sits on the health board wants to know if the health board has the authority to order the ban.

"This is not about the smoking ban," said Roberts, "this is about which agency can enact legislation."

Health Department director Swannie Jett said he went to Fiscal Court last August and asked members to take up the issue, but they didn't because it was an election year.

"I think the idea is ludicrous if you just think about the health impacts," Jett told us of fighting the ban.

Jett maintains the legal challenge is a waste of taxpayer money.

"It's already been implemented in other parts of the state," he said.

Under state law, health departments in Woodford, Madison and Clark counties put their smoking bans into action. In Hopkins County, where a similar court action came up, a circuit judge sided with the health department.

Jesse Broughton, manager of the Shepherdsville Denny's restaurant, said he agrees with the health director.

"I can't understand why our local government is even trying to fight this," said Broughton, "It's backward."

Broughton's restaurant serves smoking customers, but he says most patrons coming off Interstate 65 can't believe some Kentucky restaurants still allow it. Smokers like Robert and Wanda Stafford couldn't disagree more. They say it's about being stripped of their rights.

"They're taking everything away from us," Robert Stafford complained.

"The bottom line is we all have parents and they raised us and we don't need people telling us what to do," added Wanda.

Steven Megerle, a Covington attorney who represents for the smokers group, "Bullitt County Choice," tells us he plans to file a motion to intervene in the local challenge. Megerle also plans to file a federal suit next week in U.S. District Court in Louisville maintaining local government has the right to determine its own destiny. Megerle says that in this case, the Kentucky law is overly broad.

Copyright 2011 WAVE News. All rights reserved.