Oklahoma Senate panel defeats anti-smoking bill
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
2/19/13 at 7:48 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - A Senate panel killed a bill Monday that would allow cities and towns to pass ordinances more stringent than state laws governing tobacco use.
Opponents of Senate Bill 36 said they were reluctant to tell local businesses what they could and could not do.
"This is not about local control," said Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Yukon. "It is about infringing on business people's rights."
Supporters said the issue is one of local control, adding that tobacco is the No. 1 killer in the state.
The vote was 6-2 against the measure. It is now dead for two years.
In her State of the State address earlier this month, Gov. Mary Fallin called for passage of the measure.
"This is a victory for the tobacco lobbyists and the tobacco industry," said Alex Weintz, a Fallin spokesman. "It's defeat for the state of Oklahoma and anyone who cares about improving our health. Moving forward, Gov. Fallin will be pursuing alternative measures aimed at reducing deaths and illnesses caused by smoking and secondhand smoke."
A few years ago, the state passed a measure clamping down on smoking in public places. It allowed restaurants to create separately ventilated smoking rooms.
Critics argued that local control could force business owners to close the smoking rooms despite spending money to build them.
Jim Shumsky, owner of Junior's in Oklahoma City, said he spent $200,000 on the room. Passage of the measure would have appeared that lawmakers were reneging on a promise.
Ed Lynn, who owns three Buffalo Wild Wings franchises, said the measure was a slippery slope toward creation of a "nanny state."
Health Commissioner and Secretary of Health and Human Services Terry Cline said tobacco-related illnesses kill 6,000 Oklahomans a year.
About 26 percent of all Oklahoma adults smoke, he said.
Passage would have allowed local communities to protect their residents, Cline said.
Original Print Headline: Anti-smoking bill defeated
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465
Oklahoma Sen. Rob Johnson