Wednesday, February 12, 2003

House defeats bill to ban smoking in college dorms

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - Ashley Pennington considers her dorm room to be home - where she can light up a cigarette whenever the mood strikes.

Her tobacco habit within the cozy confines of her room was preserved Tuesday when the Kentucky House narrowly defeated a bill that sought to ban smoking in student housing on college campuses.

The proposal, defeated 49-45 in Frankfort, would have banned smoking in dorms, residence halls and other campus-owned and sanctioned housing at public and private colleges and universities.

Pennington said she was relieved to hear the bill didn't pass.

"I would have had to go outside (to smoke), and I feel like, myself, I would have been compromised," she said.

In her dorm on the University of Kentucky campus, smoking is allowed only in private rooms. Pennington, a 20-year-old sophomore from Danville, said she paid to live in the dorm, so she should have the right to smoke in her room as long as her roommate consents.

But it is concern about student safety and health that were the driving forces behind the bill, said its sponsor, Louisville Democratic Rep. Jim Wayne. He was disappointed at the House's action.

"I can't help but believe that some of it had to do with the illusion that we constantly have to be supportive of the tobacco industry and the tobacco farmer," Wayne said.

Kentucky is the nation's leading producer of burley tobacco.

Wayne said the proposal would not have hurt the tobacco industry, and would have protected public health and safety.

According to national statistics, slightly more than one in 10 dorm fires are caused by smoking, he said.

And, the ventilation system in many dorms recirculates the cigarette smoke throughout the building, he said.

Rep. Roger Thomas, chairman of the House Agriculture and Small Business Committee, voted against the bill. Earlier, he said the bill was an example of government "overreaching."

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