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Q&A with Ellen Hahn, director of Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy

Jul 1, 2019

Ellen Hahn is the director of the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy, an organization that aims to provide science-based strategies for advancing smoke-free policies in Kentucky. Hahn spoke with Interact for Health about reducing tobacco use.

Interact for Health: Could you explain more about the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy's goals?

Hahn: The Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy is a dissemination and implementation research center, which means we do community outreach and share best practices with communities interested in adopting smoke-free or tobacco-free policies. The center's goal is to be a resource for communities starting, maintaining, or expanding low- or tobacco-free campaigns.

Interact for Health: What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Hahn: I am most proud of the science we produce around smoke-free laws. We are researchers, community activists, and advocates, but we are also faculty members and we've been able to publish policy outcome studies that have really made a difference. We've documented positive health outcomes from smoke-free ordinances. It's really helped advocates in Kentucky and throughout the country argue for good, strong comprehensive smoke-free laws. When we started in 2005, we had 0% of Kentuckians covered by tobacco-free policies and now we're at about 35%. That may seem like a modest result, but it has been a big lift in a tobacco-growing state.

Interact for Health: Could you tell me a brief story that illustrates the effect of your work in the local community?

Hahn: The one that comes to mind is a smoke-free city ordinance that failed the first time it came before elected officials. The city's mayor had initially opposed the ordinance, but then over time, he became educated on the issue. As the mayor explains it, he changed his mind when he looked at his grandchildren and realized the legacy he could leave in the community if he voted in favor of the ordinance. The ordinance eventually passed.

Interact for Health: What lessons have you learned through your work?

Hahn: We've learned advocacy is both an art and a science and communities need both to succeed. We've learned you have to assess a community's readiness to adopt smoke-free or tobacco-free policies and base your strategy on their readiness for policy change. 

Interact for Health: What about your work excites you most?

Hahn: I really learn so much from the communities, which excites me. It's also very fulfilling to see communities rise to the occasion and use best practices and be successful, seeing their communities go smoke free, their campuses go tobacco free, or their elected officials support smoke-free policies.

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