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February 19, 2013

Locals choke on Senate’s smoking restrictions decision

NORMAN — A bill endorsed by Gov. Mary Fallin that would allow local governments to adopt tougher smoking ordinances died in committee Monday. Opponents argued that SB 36 would allow cities to put a burden on restaurants that had added ventilated rooms for smokers in an effort to comply with state smoking laws.

“I think it’s unfortunate. We often hear state officials complaining about the federal government telling them what to do,” Norman Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said. “This is a case of the state telling local government what to do. Local government is the level closest to the people, and this legislation would simply allow them to craft policy appropriate to their communities.”

In downtown Norman, some bars and restaurant have sections for smokers.

“It’s important for some of our customers, especially when we get some of the crazy Oklahoma weather, but we’ll always abide by whatever the local laws are,” said Emily White, general manager at The Abner Ale House.

Campus Corner also has several businesses that have smoking areas.

O’Connell’s Grill and Pub does not have a smoking area. However, owner Jeff Stewart said he is pleased the bill died in committee.

“City by city is not the way to do it,” he said. “You have to do it all across the board or not at all. It’s fine the way it is.”

Stewart said going city by city is too confusing to customers.

In addition, a recent attorney general’s opinion prohibits cities from banning smoking in city-owned outdoor parks and recreational areas.

In 2009, the Norman City Council banned the use of tobacco in city parks, except for Westwood Park golf course and adjacent parking lots.

Norman has taken no action on the AG’s recent opinion regarding smoking in parks. Norman City Attorney Jeff Bryant said he is studying the matter to see what application it has to Norman.

Joy Hampton

366-3539

jhampton@

normantranscript.com

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