Photo by: Nick Conley
During her State of the State speech, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said she supports letting cities and towns craft their own anti-smoking laws.
“If a community wants to take action to improve the health of their citizens, let them do it,” Fallin said.
State Health Commissioner Terry Cline is hoping, with the support of Fallin, that he can get a bill passed that he has worked on for years. The bill would have let metropolitan communities put laws in place regarding where citizens would be allowed to smoke. There are a couple of reasons why the bill has yet to pass.
Two years ago, Cline tried to get the bill passed for the first time. It would have given the city control over such things as advertising and the display and taxation of tobacco products.
Because of this, retailers lashed out, and the bill was stopped. Since then, Cline has revised the bill and removed the once-criticized, relatively-broad language the bill possessed.
Last year, the new bill was presented again. The bill made it past the House, but was stopped in a Senate committee. Understandably, there are more concerns about trying to pass this year’s bill, as it is going through the same committee where it died last year.
Some associations and organizations, like the Oklahoma Restaurant Association, oppose the bill, fearing the bill would be unfair to businesses. However, the health commissioner thinks the law would give cities local control, and it could potentially do things such as improve the health of Oklahomans and reduce tobacco-related costs, for which Oklahoma spends $1.7 billion annually on health-related illnesses.
Cline’s hope is that, with the backing of Gov. Fallin, the bill could possibly gain publicity and awareness, therefore helping the bill to pass.
Gov. Fallin signed an executive order last Monday banning the use of tobacco products on state property. The order gives state agencies six months to make sure tobacco, including smokeless tobacco, is not used in or on any state property, including buildings, land and vehicles.
Fallin announced the plan for the new executive order during her State of the State Address, also mentioning a plan to turn the room at the State Capitol currently designated for smoking into a fitness center.
This smoke-free mentality received mixed reviews among the Oklahoma Christian University student body.
Kyle Berges, a sophomore biology major and Colorado native, said it is a good idea for Oklahoma to adopt the smoke-free ban.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Berges said. “In Colorado, you can’t smoke in restaurants or within 15 feet of the entrance. Plus, some people find it offensive and won’t eat at certain restaurants if they know people smoke in front of it.”
Sophomore Sarah DiBiasi also said the state being smoke-free is a good idea because it could potentially better the health of some individuals since secondhand smoke is such a big health risk to people like small children.
“I agree with the plan,” DiBiasi said. “It’s the government’s job to protect its citizens from unnecessary harm, and second hand smoke has been proven to cause health problems. It’s the government’s job to protect the people from that when possible.”
Katie Pryor, a senior nursing major, echoed DiBiasi by saying she is concerned about the health of others.
“My main reason for public places to be a smoking-free environment is for the children,” Pryor said. “Parents have the choice to go someplace that allows smoking, and this would expose children to that kind of environment.”
On the flip side, some students disagreed with this viewpoint. Junior Lincoln Dutcher said that the ban would be an invasion of businesses’ rights.
“I disagree with the proposal,” Dutcher said. “It’s not the role of the government to control how private businesses operate. If people don’t want to be subjected to second-hand smoke, they don’t have to go to those restaurants. As long as there is a market for restaurants that allow smoking, banning them would only serve to stifle the economy.”
More indifferent to the proposal, senior Hannah Pyles said it is the individual’s responsibility to pick the setting that would either prohibit or enable the smoking.
“I’m actually fine with restaurants being smoke free,” Pyles said. “However, if someone goes to a bar to get a burger and people are smoking there, I feel like that is to be expected in that setting. It just depends on what crowd the restaurant is attracting that should dictate if it’s smoke free.”