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Tobacco prevention, cessation advisory committee adopts preemption resolution

Publication Date: 2010-09-22
  • Author:Shawn Ashley

The Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Advisory Committee adopted a resolution Tuesday asking the Legislature to amend a state law that prevents communities from imposing smoking restrictions more stringent than those of the state.

"I believe this is the year to knock this down," Commissioner of Health Dr. Terry Cline said during the meeting.

A state law enacted in 1994 prohibits any municipality from adopting tobacco-related ordinances that are stronger than state law. Oklahoma is only one of two states with such a law, Doug Matheny, with the Oklahoma State Department of Health's tobacco use prevention services, said.

The resolution "urges the Oklahoma state Legislature to restore local rights to adopt evidence based tobacco prevention policies as recommended in by the Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan."

At the suggestion of Steve Buck, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services deputy commissioner for communication and prevention, the resolution will note that the development of the Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan was authorized by the Legislature.

Cline said the proposal is in line with the values of most Oklahomans who"don't like big government telling us what to do." Cline also noted that a number of groups that had previously pursued different agendas were now aligning behind the issue.

One of those groups is the Oklahoma Smoke Free Coalition. Randle Lee, director of the group, said that while the group would like to see a comprehensive statewide smoke-free law enacted, it was supporting efforts to regain local control of the issue.

"We do not want to tell (communities) to be smoke free, but we want them to be able to make their own minds up," Lee said.

Matheny said several communities currently are involved in similar efforts. The city of Ardmore passed a resolution this month asking the Oklahoma Municipal League to pursue the issue. The city of Altus sought an attorney general's opinion regarding the application of the law to outdoor spaces, he said. In its response, the attorney general's office said the law applied only to indoor spaces and enclosures, not public parks, Matheny said.

Mark Newman, director of state and federal policy for the health department, said the issue also is being endorsed by the Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan tobacco flagship working group and the plan's executive board.

Former Oklahoma City Councilman Frosty Peak, who represents retail interests on the advisory committee, said the effort would draw a sharp response from tobacco lobbyists, who would prefer not to have to fight tobacco prohibitions in several communities but would prefer to do so only at the state level.

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