The Norman Transcript


November 26, 2012

Advocates to push for tobacco control



The CDC’s Nov. 16 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that Oklahoma’s two largest cities are among six of the nation’s 50 most populous cities that fail to ensure nonsmoking environments inside all workplaces, restaurants and bars. Nearly all states allow cities to enact their own local ordinances regarding tobacco use.

The report prompted State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline to urge lawmakers to restore “local rights for Oklahoma’s cities and towns to adopt stronger smoking ordinances ... Until then, Oklahoma will continue to struggle to improve the health of our residents and the economic health of our state.”

What’s significant about local control is the fact that, according to the CDC, the “strongest smoking restrictions traditionally have originated at the local level.” That obviously is among reasons the tobacco industry opposes such measures.

Interestingly, the first comprehensive control laws often are adopted by smaller communities, whose success “lays the groundwork for adoption of similar laws by larger cities and, ultimately, at the state level,” according to the report.

Whether they originate at the local or state level, smoke-free laws tend to generate “high levels of public support and compliance, reduce (secondhand smoke) exposure and improve health outcomes.”

What money can buy: While local control is the trend elsewhere, our lawmakers haven’t jumped on that bandwagon. Some longtime advocates believe that’s because of the industry’s generosity toward politicians.

Doug Matheny, former director of tobacco prevention for the state Health Department, retired last year and set up a website,, aiming to focus attention on the industry’s lobbying efforts in Oklahoma.

Matheny is calling on legislators to sign a pledge not to accept campaign contributions, meals or other gifts from tobacco PACs or tobacco lobbyists.

“For decades, we’ve watched tobacco lobbyists manage to kill bills they oppose and pass bills they support,” said Matheny in announcing the website’s creation. “Even if it never influenced legislation, money distributed by tobacco lobbyists should be refused as a matter of principle. Accepting money or gifts from representatives of an industry that addicts young people to deadly products is inconsistent with Oklahoma values.”

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