May 1, 2013

Bill giving cities power over tobacco signed by Fallin

James Bright, Managing Editor,
The Express-Star

CHICKASHA — Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill into law yesterday giving local governments control over whether to allow smoking in public parks and municipal facilities.

Mayor Hank Ross said the city council has not met over this issue yet.

"We need to bring this to a work session, but we are all for promoting good health," he said.

The legislation gives local governments the authority to ban smoking on any property they own or operate, including municipal parks and sports complexes, according to a release from the governor's office. Some communities had already enacted such bans; however, the attorney general ruled that was a violation of state law limiting local government control over the use of tobacco.

“This is a victory for public health,” said Frank Simpson, the Oklahoma senator who co-authored the bill.  “Parents and grandparents should be able to take their children to the park or to a little league game without having to worry about second-hand smoke—now cities that want to ban smoking in those facilities have the legal authority to do it.”

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, about 6,000 Oklahomans die each year as a result of smoking, and 700 die from second-hand smoke the release states.

The governor issued an Executive Order in 2012 banning all tobacco from state properties, including vehicles.  Executive Orders remain in effect throughout a governor’s tenure, but the next governor must approve it within 90 days or the order expires, according to the release.

By placing it in the statutes, the smoking ban on state property becomes permanent.

SB 501 will go into effect beginning Nov. 1.