Big Tobacco wins again in Oklahoma
BY World's Editorials Writers
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
2/20/13 at 7:31 AM
A state Senate panel, to no one's surprise, has killed a bill that would have given cities and towns in Oklahoma the right to pass tobacco-control measures that are more stringent than state laws.
We say it's no surprise because the pro-tobacco forces in the state, notably tobacco lobbyists and PACs, have gotten their way in the Legislature for decades, and there was no reason to believe that would change this session, given the amount of money they've been sprinkling around the Capitol over the past year.
What was a little surprising was the ludicrous rationale put forth by those who are cozy with the tobacco industry.
"This is not about local control," said Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Yukon. "It is about infringing on business people's rights."
It was and is about local control, pure and simple. If local city councils felt adopting stronger regulations would be bad for business, then they certainly wouldn't be forced to take such action. The measure would simply have given them that option - but six lawmakers decided local leaders shouldn't have that option.
If any of them had bothered to consider the mountain of research on second-hand smoke and the economic benefits of stricter regulations, they might have had a different view about local control. But of course, they aren't interested in what the research and polls show.
Here's what they might have found persuasive, if they were open to such material, from research and polling results provided by Smoke Free Oklahoma:
So who wins, thanks to those six lawmakers who killed local control? Big Tobacco and a tiny fraction of Oklahoma business operators. The losers? The vast majority of Oklahomans who believe health concerns should rule.
- 68 percent of voters believe the rights of customers and employees to breathe clean air is more important than the rights of smokers to smoke and owners to allow smoking.
- 59 percent of Oklahomans support a smoke-free environment for Oklahoma workers and families.
- 18 percent of those surveyed say they would go out more often if restaurants and bars were smoke-free.
- A poll of restaurateurs done last year found four times as many of the respondents believed they would gain business as believed they would lose business if their city went completely smoke-free.
- 68 percent of restaurant owners supported allowing Oklahoma cities to go entirely smoke-free once they learned how it enhances business.
- Only 1 percent of those surveyed said restrictive smoking laws were their top concern.
Original Print Headline: Tobacco wins