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FOR RELEASE: May 20, 2003
CONTACT: Richard Barnes
Oklahoma Alliance on Health or Tobacco  
918/269-9537

It’s About Health and It’s About Time…

Although Oklahoma’s legislators are in position to take action on critical legislation that would assure Oklahomans have access to smokefree public places and workplaces, last-minute forces in the closing days of this legislative session could undermine those efforts, resulting in lost opportunities to provide Oklahomans with the breath of fresh air that numerous statewide polls say they want.

At a news conference at the State Capitol today, representatives from the Alliance on Health or Tobacco and the Oklahoma Academy of State Goals joined with Gov. Brad Henry and Secretary of Health Tom Adelson to urge that legislators pass landmark legislation that will help assure Oklahomans are protected from the health effects of secondhand tobacco smoke.

An overwhelming majority of Oklahomans support a state law providing smokefree public places and workplaces, according to multiple statewide polls. Currently, three bills restricting smoking inside public places and workplaces are pending in the legislature.

Richard Barnes, chair of the Oklahoma Alliance on Health or Tobacco, urged lawmakers to complete the important work they have begun this session to address smoking in public places and workplaces. “Clean indoor air legislation will save lives and save taxpayers dollars spent on medical care expenses related to exposure to secondhand smoke,” he said.

“This legislation is good for business, too,” said Mickey Hepner of the Oklahoma Academy of State Goals. “Reputable studies of the hospitality industry indicate that revenues stay steady, or actually increase, when smokefree policies are in place. Employers reap the benefits of less employee absenteeism, increased productivity, and savings in workers’ compensation and reduced liability for an unsafe workplace.”

Respected, science-based organizations have agreed for more than 20 years that secondhand smoke is harmful to the health of nonsmokers. Most recently, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, concluded after reviewing more than 3,000 studies that “secondhand or environmental tobacco smoke is carcinogenic to humans.” An estimated 750 Oklahomans die prematurely each year from diseases resulting from their exposure to secondhand smoke.

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