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FOR RELEASE: May 29, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

State Health Officials Praise Legislature’s Passage of Restrictions on Smoking in Public Places and Workplaces

State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch called today’s passage of SJR 21, which prohibits smoking in most public places and workplaces, “the most significant public health legislation ever passed by the Oklahoma Legislature.”

The bill passed on a second vote 52-45.

“We are very pleased that the legislature responded to the overwhelming majority of Oklahomans who wanted to be protected from involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke, particularly those who suffer from respiratory or cardiac conditions that put them at increased risk to the effects of secondhand tobacco smoke, “ Beitsch said.

“Previously, economic concerns have overridden health issues when similar legislation was considered. This legislature has made a significant investment in the health of Oklahomans by recognizing the negative impact tobacco use has on our state’s overall poor health ranking, now 46th nationally,” he continued.

Beitsch said that prior to today’s landmark legislation, the legislature and others were slow to recognize that Oklahoma’s poor health is a drag on the state’s economy and that choosing health first will have positive economic consequences, and not the other way around.

Beitsch gave credit to legislative leadership, including Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson, House Speaker Larry Adair, Sen. Ben Robinson, and Rep. Ray Vaughn. “It was their strong leadership and vision that assured that the legislature would pass meaningful secondhand smoke legislation this session. Credit also goes to our partners and their constituencies in this effort, including the Oklahoma Academy for State Goals, the Institute for Child Advocacy, the Oklahoma Alliance on Tobacco or Health, and the Oklahoma Turning Point Council, as well as dozens of other public health and business organizations throughout the state.”

Beitsch did note that even though this legislation breaks new ground, it provides a 30-month delay before restaurants are required to protect their customers and employees from breathing the carcinogenic toxins found in secondhand tobacco smoke. “That’s simply too long before restaurant employees and customers are provided the same protections that Oklahomans will have in all other public places and workplaces impacted by this legislation. Restaurants should do the right thing and go smoke-free now,” he emphasized.

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