Sunday, January 5, 2003

Lexington considers indoor smoke ban

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - Perched on his favorite barstool, Joe Wegrzyn puffs on his pipe while drinking with friends at a downtown tavern.

Mr. Wegrzyn's relaxing pastime could be snuffed out if smoking opponents push through a proposed ordinance that's not unlike the hundreds of other indoor smoking bans in cities across the nation.

But this is not just another city. In this capital of the burley tobacco belt, smoking is seen by many as a birthright, and debate over the issue has focused as much on the city's identity as its public health.

That tobacco tradition has also helped give Kentucky the nation's highest rate of adult smokers. The state also ranks among the highest for youth smokers.

Anti-smoking activists around the country are watching Lexington's debate closely.

"Lexington would be a true leader in Kentucky and in other tobacco industry stronghold states," said Bronson Frick, associate director of the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation in Berkeley, Calif.

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