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Oklahoma's Capitol, other state buildings become tobacco free Sunday

Publication Date: 2012-07-01
  • Author:Michael McNutt
  • Publication:The Oklahoman

Tobacco users in state office buildings operated by the Central Services Department — including the Capitol — will get an early jump on having to get by without smoking or chewing while at work.

An executive order issued by Gov. Mary Fallin in February doesn't take effect until next month, but effective Sunday the 18 buildings in the Capitol complex and state office buildings in Tulsa are to be tobacco free, said John Morrison, administrator of the Central Services Department.

“We just decided to go ahead and do it,” Morrison said. “There was nothing to prevent an agency from moving that up.”...

Fallin announced her proclamation during her State of the State address Feb. 6 to start the four-month legislative session. Implementation is to take place no later than six months after her proclamation, or Aug. 6, when tobacco products at all state-owned and leased properties and in state-owned and leased buildings and vehicles will be banned.

Her announcement drew applause, but groans were heard seconds later in the House of Representatives chamber when she announced the ban would mean the closing of the smoking room in the Capitol for lawmakers and employees.

The governor had planned to remodel the room at no expense to the state into a small fitness center. The state received a grant from the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust and the Oklahoma Hospital Association agreed to match it.

“The plan is now to utilize a bigger space than the one provided by the smoking room,” said Alex Weintz, Fallin's communications director. “The present smoking room will no longer be used as a smoking room. While we are unsure of what it will be used for in the future, it will likely have to be decontaminated first.

“While the governor's prohibition on tobacco use on public property goes into effect Aug. 6, agencies are free to implement tobacco-free policies before then,” he said.

Fallin said the purpose of the tobacco ban is to protect the health of employees and people visiting state-owned properties.

It also is intended to drive down one of the major factors of increasing health care costs for state employees, decrease employee absenteeism and increase productivity, according to the governor's office. The ban is expected to save the state $5.2 million annually...