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February 19, 2013

Local control denied

(Continued)

OKLAHOMA CITY —

Under current Oklahoma law, smoking is not allowed in most indoor public places, but some exceptions include private offices, bars and restaurants with separately ventilated smoking rooms. Cities and towns also are prohibited from enacting stricter smoking bans than those already in state law, and according to an attorney general’s opinion released earlier this month, cities cannot ban smoking even in city-owned outdoor parks and recreational areas.

Among those who testified against the bill was Jim Shumsky, the owner of Jim’s Supper Club, who said he spent $200,000 to build a separate ventilation system for a smoking room inside his Oklahoma City restaurant.

“It seems to me they’re trying to renege on the promise they made,” Shumsky said.

Oklahoma Secretary of Health Dr. Terry Cline, who spoke in favor of the measure, said tobacco-related illnesses kill about 6,000 Oklahomans every year.

“It’s actually killing more people than all the automobile accidents, all the homicides, all the suicides, all the drug overdoses combined,” Cline said. “That’s science. That’s fact. It’s not debatable.”

While Oklahoma has seen a slow decline in tobacco use over the last decade, more than 26 percent of Oklahoma adults smoke, which is the third highest in the nation, Cline said.

An amendment to the bill that would have allowed a grandfather clause for those restaurants that had built separate smoking rooms also was defeated.

Although the bill was killed and no similar legislation remains alive in the House, Cline refused to say the issue of returning local control to communities over smoking was over for the session.

“It can’t be over. There are too many people dying. There is too much at stake,” Cline said after the hearing. “It would really be like turning your back on people who you know are condemned to death, and you could do something about that, so of course it’s not over.”

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