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FOR RELEASE: February 28 , 2006
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Smokefree Dining Now Available at All Oklahoma Restaurants

In a move that completes the health protections provided by Oklahoma’s Clean Indoor Air Laws passed by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2003, tomorrow, March 1, 2006, all Oklahoma restaurants will either be entirely smokefree, or smokefree except for a specially equipped smoking room set aside to protect nonsmokers from the damage of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.

"Oklahoma is sure to become a healthier state as the result of smokefree restaurants,” said Gov. Brad Henry. “These are commonsense restrictions that gave restaurants the reasonable option of going entirely smokefree or establishing a fully enclosed smoking area with separate ventilation. In so doing, Oklahoma will greatly reduce secondhand smoke and the health hazards that come with it."

“This is indeed a time to celebrate,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Mike Crutcher. “Smokefree dining is the final step in laws the State of Oklahoma adopted in 2003 to protect the public and workers from secondhand smoke exposure inside most public places and indoor workplaces. The laws allowed restaurants an extra 30 months, or until March 1, 2006, to decide whether they would be totally smokefree or also provide a smoking room. We believe that at least 97 percent of restaurants will provide totally smokefree dining. This is good news for those Oklahomans who dine out and now can enjoy the full array of our state’s restaurants smokefree!”

The new laws were enacted because secondhand tobacco smoke causes damage to the health of both nonsmokers and smokers. Entirely smokefree workplaces frequently experience reduced costs such as lower cleaning costs and less healthcare expense. Research has shown that by going totally smokefree, business tends to stay the same or increase by bringing in new customers who avoid restaurants that allow smoking.

In addition, totally smokefree public places, including restaurants, help prevent young people from initiating tobacco use and becoming addicted to tobacco products, and help encourage all smokers to quit.

Health officials caution that those restaurants that have decided to build smoking rooms will cause some restaurant employees to continue to be exposed to concentrated secondhand smoke for long periods of time at the worksite. “With time, we hope these restaurants will reconsider and go smokefree,” Crutcher said.

Restaurants employ nearly 100,000 Oklahomans and historically, hospitality workers have had among the highest exposures to secondhand smoke at their worksites.

Crutcher noted that restaurant workers no longer able to smoke on the job due to the law change may want to take advantage of the toll-free quit services offered by the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline at 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669). This helpline provides professional, telephone-based tobacco cessation coaching at no charge to Oklahomans who wish to quit using tobacco. The helpline can be accessed from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, and staff will return any messages left after hours. For more information, visit www.tset.ok.gov/programs/helpline.html.

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