Louisville Council Bans Smoking

Leaders in this city long associated with the tobacco industry voted Thursday to adopt a limited ban on smoking but backed away from a more comprehensive proposal that would have prohibited lighting up in all public buildings.

The 26-member Louisville Metro Council (search) voted 21-5 in favor of a ban that would prohibit smoking in most workplaces and restaurants, but the ordinance added several exceptions, including Churchill Downs and freestanding bars.

The ban will take effect 90 days after Mayor Jerry Abramson (search) signs the proposal, which he is expected to do by early next week.

"I'm very excited and appreciative that the council stepped up in a significant way for the health of our citizens," Abramson said shortly after the vote. "This is a very positive, very strong statement by the council."

Kentucky is the nation's leading producer of burley tobacco, an ingredient in cigarettes, and Louisville is the state's largest city, with an adult smoking rate that is among the highest in the nation — 27.5 percent, according to 2004 figures from the Centers for Disease Control.

A vote on a more far-reaching ban that included all public buildings was put off by the council a month ago, sparking emotional outbursts from a packed chamber. The chamber was once again crowded on Thursday night, but residents were more muted as two police officers stood at the back of the room.

Council member George Melton (search) pushed for a sweeping ban that mirrored one in Lexington, which barred smoking in most indoor public places in April 2004. Lexington became the first city in Kentucky to enact a ban.

The Louisville council opted for the more limited proposal, also sponsored by Melton.

"I had to go with this one," Melton said. "I've got a good one here, but I couldn't get the votes. Smoking is one of the most dangerous, unhealthiest things in the country. Here we are arguing over this and that, and we're acting like a bunch of third-graders."