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Health officials push for local smoking-ban allowance

Publication Date: 2011-01-11
  • Author:Shannon Muchmore
  • Publication:Tulsa World

Local health officials and politicians met Tuesday night to advocate for legislation that would allow municipalities to ban smoking in public places.

The public meeting, sponsored by the Tobacco Free Coalition for Tulsa County, was held at the Tulsa County Medical Society.

Oklahoma and Tennessee are the only two states that do not allow cities to create smoking restrictions that are stricter than state law.

Oklahoma Health Commissioner Terry Cline called the current situation archaic.

"You have been deprived from the right to protect your family from a killer," he said.

The fight to change the legislation will be difficult, but it has a good chance of happening this session, he said.

"There are communities who want to do what is right, but they can't,"Cline said.

Bills to allow local control have been introduced in the state Legislature for the past two years but have not been successful.

Cline said the two main opponents of local control in Oklahoma are the tobacco industry and Tulsa-based convenience store chain QuikTrip.

QuikTrip is a "great community partner" but manages to operate in eight states that do have local control and would be able to continue to do good business in Oklahoma if the legislation is changed, he said.

Victor Wandres, a member of the band Klondike5, which provided entertainment before the meeting, said the group supports local control legislation.

"Our favorite places to play, undoubtedly, are the places that don't allow smoking," he said.

Wandres said the law would benefit servers, bartenders and musicians who work at bars and restaurants.

One in five adults in Tulsa County smokes every day, a rate higher than the national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, according to the agency.

Advocates at the meeting Tuesday said lack of local control is also bad for business because companies prefer locating in smoke-free cities that are likely to have a healthier work force.

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