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February 13, 2020 10:28am

Legislation to promote a healthier workforce moving forward in Frankfort

Legislation that will help lead to a healthier regional workforce in greater Louisville is starting to work its way through the Kentucky General Assembly. Passage of this legislation will make our regional workforce more productive and competitive and help improve health outcomes throughout the Commonwealth. 

Kentucky has long held the unfortunate position of having some of the highest smoking rates in the country. About a quarter of Kentucky’s adult population smokes, and 14 percent of high school students smoke. This leads to horrible consequences. Nearly 9,000 adults in Kentucky die every year due to smoking. Tobacco also harms our economy through lowered productivity, increased absenteeism, and high healthcare costs. One study has shown that an employee who smokes costs an employer $6,000 more per year than an employee who doesn’t smoke. Smoking, in fact, costs Kentucky an estimated $2.7 billion in lost economic productivity. 

Vaping is also catching on in Kentucky – especially with high school students. High school student e-cigarette usage in Kentucky nearly doubled from 2017 (14.1 percent) to 2019 (26.1 percent); middle schooler usage more than quadrupled (from 3.9 percent to 17.3 percent). E-cigarettes are not safe for youth or young adults; they contain high levels of nicotine, which harms the developing brain and primes it for other addictions, as well as other toxins.

To ensure our region has a healthy and competitive regional workforce, GLI is backing several high-priority initiatives in 2020:

CLICK HERE to encourage legislators to vote YES on these bills.

  • House Bill 32, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Miller (R-Louisville), would place an excise tax on the sale of e-cigarettes and vaping products. E-cigarettes are the only tobacco product sold in Kentucky not currently subject to an excise tax. Raising the price of tobacco products via tax increases is the single most effective way to reduce tobacco use, especially among youth, pregnant women and those living on low incomes. House Bill 32 would also increase the excise tax on smokeless tobacco. While the bill is intended to address the issue of youth vaping, it would also raise more than $20 million in new state revenues. 
  • Senate Bill 56, sponsored by Senator Alvarado (R-Winchester), would bring Kentucky into compliance with recent federal legislation raising the minimum purchase age for tobacco products from 18 to 21. This new federal law was championed by Kentucky Senator and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Raising the minimum purchase age to 21 has been a long-time GLI priority. Senate Bill 56 would also repeal current Kentucky law that penalizes Kentucky youth for possessing or using tobacco products. 
  • House Bill 69, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Miller, seeks to restrict youth access to flavored e-cigarettes. This bill would require retailers and manufacturers of flavored e-cigarette cartridges to register with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, require sales of flavored e-cig cartridges to take place in-person in stores where only those older than age 18 can enter, and require those selling flavored e-cig cartridges to use a third-party, real-time, electronic age-verification system starting on Jan. 1, 2021.
  • State Budget: GLI supports increasing funding for statewide tobacco prevention and cessation efforts from $3.3 million in fiscal 2020 to $10 million in fiscal 2021. This funding supports the statewide Quitline and local health department cessation programs, as well as multi-media and local prevention education programs.