Letter to the Editor: Get out of the way
Published: 2/17/2013 2:10 AM
Last Modified: 2/17/2013 7:57 AM
When asked about whether Senate Bill 6 has a chance to be heard in his committee, Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, said, "...rather than doing this a little bit at a time.... let's just do this all at once... whether or not we are going to ban tobacco smoking in Oklahoma." He said he preferred to use tobacco settlement money to continue to educate the people on dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke.
We all see how well that has worked. We have been fighting tradition with education and those of us on the sidelines, sitting in second-hand smoke, are still waiting for that education to kick in.
It seems as though legislators have been dancing around this issue for years. So while we are waiting for them to "do it all at once," why not let the bill be heard and get out of the way of small governments (cities and towns) that want to actually do something to protect the health of their citizens and keep their public places free of cigarette butt litter?
Editor's note: Aycock is a member of Musicians and Music Lovers for Smoke Free Listening,
Big Tobacco wins again in Oklahoma
Published: 2/20/2013 1:54 AM
Last Modified: 2/20/2013 7:31 AM
A state Senate panel, to no one's surprise, has killed a bill that would have given cities and towns in Oklahoma the right to pass tobacco-control measures that are more stringent than state laws.
We say it's no surprise because the pro-tobacco forces in the state, notably tobacco lobbyists and PACs, have gotten their way in the Legislature for decades, and there was no reason to believe that would change this session, given the amount of money they've been sprinkling around the Capitol over the past year.
What was a little surprising was the ludicrous rationale put forth by those who are cozy with the tobacco industry.
"This is not about local control," said Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Yukon. "It is about infringing on business people's rights."
It was and is about local control, pure and simple. If local city councils felt adopting stronger regulations would be bad for business, then they certainly wouldn't be forced to take such action. The measure would simply have given them that option - but six lawmakers decided local leaders shouldn't have that option.
If any of them had bothered to consider the mountain of research on second-hand smoke and the economic benefits of stricter regulations, they might have had a different view about local control. But of course, they aren't interested in what the research and polls show.
Here's what they might have found persuasive, if they were open to such material, from research and polling results provided by Smoke Free Oklahoma:
- 68 percent of voters believe the rights of customers and
employees to breathe clean air is more important than the rights of
smokers to smoke and owners to allow smoking.
- 59 percent of Oklahomans support a smoke-free environment for Oklahoma workers and families.
- 18 percent of those surveyed say they would go out more often if restaurants and bars were smoke-free.
- A poll of restaurateurs done last year found four times as many
of the respondents believed they would gain business as believed they
would lose business if their city went completely smoke-free.
- 68 percent of restaurant owners supported allowing Oklahoma
cities to go entirely smoke-free once they learned how it enhances
- Only 1 percent of those surveyed said restrictive smoking laws were their top concern.
Oklahoma Gov. Fallin to lead smoking crackdown petition
Published: 2/20/2013 1:51 AM
Last Modified: 2/20/2013 7:30 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday said she will lead an initiative petition drive to let voters decide to crack down on smoking in public places.
The wording of the language is still being worked out, but supporters are hopeful it will be on the ballot in 2014.
Gov. Mary Fallin: She said both of her parents began smoking at a young age. Her father died before she got married or ran for office; her mother lived longer but had medical issues.
It has not been determined how the petition would be circulated nor its cost.
The petition would require 82,782 signatures if it called for a change in the law and 155,216 signatures if it called for a change in the state Constitution, for it to be put on the ballot, said Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz.
The action comes a day after a Senate panel voted down Senate Bill 36, which would have let cities and towns pass ordinances stricter than state law governing tobacco use.
Critics said the measure could create a geographic quilt of areas with varying rules on smoking, giving some businesses an advantage over others.
Leading the charge against the measure was Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Yukon, who said the bill was anything but local control.
Years ago, lawmakers passed a measure limiting smoking in public places, but allowed restaurants to build separately ventilated smoking rooms.
Critics of Senate Bill 36 said the measure was unfair to restaurant owners who made the investment, but could have to shut them down should cities pass ordinances requiring it.
The measure was originally assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, said he would not hear the measure.
It was then reassigned to the General Government Committee, where it was voted down.
Fallin, who called for local control in her State of the State address earlier this month, said she was disappointed in Monday's action.
"Now, the tobacco interests may have won a battle yesterday, but they didn't win the war," Fallin said.
Oklahoma ranks fourth highest in the nation for smoking, she said.
Some 6,000 Oklahomans die each year from smoking-related illnesses, she said.
"Now is the time to take this issue to the people of Oklahoma," Fallin said. "We know how a majority of the people of Oklahoma feel about this issue."
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said he was surprised by the Senate panel's action.
The reaction has been amazing, he said.
"I think today there is a broad response of anger," Cornett said.
Johnson said he would be more supportive of an outright ban than letting cities and towns individually decide because it would create a level playing field.
Fallin said the issue was personal for her.
Both of her parents began smoking at a young age. Her father died before she got married and before she ran for office.
"My mother became very ill at the age of 73 with heart disease, had three heart surgeries," Fallin said.
"She later had all kinds of other issues from several strokes. She became bedridden. She had a feeding tube and diapers, and I was her caregiver for five years during her illness. Many of her issues were related to her lifestyle choices that she had made."
Ponca City Mayor Homer Nicholson, president of the Oklahoma Municipal League, said he hopes all Oklahomans will get on board.
Oklahoma is one of two states where state law prohibits cities and towns from enacting smoking ordinances more stringent than state law, Nicholson said.
Original Print Headline: Fallin to lead anti-smoking push