That means if Durant’s City Council wanted to prevent smoking inside bars, it couldn’t do so since the state doesn’t have a similar law. The Oklahoma Municipal League has called on the Legislature to allow communities to decide for themselves.
“Local leaders are in the best position to respond to emerging tobacco industry strategies and help protect the physical and economic health of their citizens,” Renee Wyrick, Bryan County CXP Tobacco Control Assistant Coordinator said, in a news release.
“If you do not want to go into a smoking establishment, nobody makes you do that. It’s freedom of choice. But for the employees of that establishment who are trying to make a living for their families they don’t have a choice but to breathe the side stream and second hand smoke of the customers. Everyone has the right to breathe clean air.”
It’ll be a priority issue in this year’s OML legislative wish list. Tobacco lobbyists were successful at taking away local rights on tobacco prevention some 20 years ago. Tobacco interests would rather deal with the legislature than face hundreds of city councils and town trustees.
The biggest opposition will come from convenience stores that don’t want to have different rules for different stores. Those same store chains deal with multiple states.
“Those 48 states that allow cities and towns to adopt laws stricter than state laws couldn’t all be wrong, could they?” Wyrick said. “Of course not, if Oklahoma leaders really are so keen about local control, it’s time they joined the ranks of those states that have allowed it for many years.”
If a new effort toward that end succeeds, Oklahoma will become the 49th state to allow cities and towns to pre-empt state laws on such activities as tobacco use
According to health officials, tobacco is Oklahoma’s leading cause of preventable death, killing more Oklahomans each year than alcohol, auto accidents, AIDS, suicides, murders, and illegal drugs combined. Three out of five Oklahoma adult smokers make at least one serious attempt to quit. Most smokers become addicted as young people. In addition to the 5,800 Oklahomans who die each year from tobacco, another 100,000 Oklahomans suffer from serious tobacco-caused diseases.
Every day, 16 Oklahomans die from tobacco use and the equivalent of a classroom of students gets hooked. Second-hand smoke exposure causes heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease among healthy non-smokers, killing an estimated 700 Oklahomans each year. Tobacco use costs Oklahomans over $2.7 billion in medical expenses and lost productivity every year, or an average cost of $750 for every Oklahoman every year. The more adults who quit tobacco, the fewer kids ever start.