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FOR RELEASE: April 9, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Board of Health Actions on Secondhand Smoke Not a Power Struggle, but an Effort to Improve Health of Oklahomans

The President of the State Board of Health said today that those who characterize recent events as a “power struggle” surrounding the Board’s proposed rules on secondhand smoke have missed the point.

“The central issue is the urgent need to address the single greatest factor killing and disabling Oklahomans - tobacco use,” said Board of Health President Dr. Ron Graves. “This Board has proposed rules by procedures specified in Oklahoma statutes while realizing that review by elected officials is required prior to implementation. We strongly agree that actions of this kind by our board or any appointed board should be reviewed for approval by the legislature and governor’s office prior to implementation.”

Graves said overwhelming scientific data document the toxic effects of secondhand smoke. “Given what we now know about the toll secondhand smoke takes on Oklahomans, the Board of Health would have been negligent and derelict in not following appropriate administrative procedures to recommend effective solutions to the problem of secondhand smoke,” he emphasized.

Graves also took issue with the notion that regulation of secondhand smoke in public places disregards the rights of business owners. “A business owner does not have the right to willfully allow injury to his patrons or employees,” he said.

“Solid scientific data clearly demonstrate that secondhand smoke does produce serious injury and disease,” Graves continued. “We feel strongly that this is a personal rights issue-the right of the public not to be involuntarily injured by others and the right of employees not to be subjected to injurious substances as a right of employment.”

Graves noted that although the Board’s actions were based solely on health issues, the Board “was comforted” by the fact that objective sales tax data from many cities and states where similar rules have passed documented no adverse economic consequences to the restaurant industry.

“The Board of Health enthusiastically commends Gov. Keating for his call to action last week to the legislature to review the Board’s proposals to implement legislation that will address these issues,” Graves said. “We know legislators also wish to prevent needless death and disease among their constituents. We hope that they will accept the governor’s challenge by placing politics and special interest influence aside to tackle these vital concerns aggressively and constructively. We are prepared to utilize our resources to aid the legislature in this endeavor.”

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