Topeka A ban on smoking in public places got some added firepower Wednesday as five Republican state senators announced they would make it a top priority in the upcoming legislative session.
"Perhaps the single most effective thing we could do to improve the health of many Kansans and to reduce the cost of chronic disease is to eliminate secondhand smoke and to discourage smoking in general," said Sen. Roger Reitz of Manhattan, who is a physician.
"We have an opportunity to significantly improve the health of Kansans and reduce the cost of everyone's health insurance and monetary pressure on Medicaid," Reitz said.
Reitz, and Sens. David Wysong of Mission Hills, Pete Brungart of Salina, Jim Barnett of Emporia and Vickie Schmidt of Topeka said they would push for the ban in the session that starts Monday.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, also supports a smoking ban, noting that nearly half of the state's population is already affected by smoking bans.
The city of Lawrence has banned smoking in nearly all indoor workplaces for more than three years. The city ordinance was challenged and ruled constitutional in June by the Kansas Supreme Court.
Health expenditures related to tobacco use cost the state Medicaid program $196 million per year, according to the Tobacco Free Kansas coalition.
The smoking ban was one of 21 recommendations from the Kansas Health Policy Authority. Another one would increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes by 50 cents.
Lawmakers, however, have not warmed up to that idea.