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For Release: Nov. 16, 2012 – Pamela Williams, Office of Communications – 405/271-5601

Oklahoma’s Two Major Cities Lack Smokefree Protection

Two Oklahoma cities are among six cities nationwide singled out in a new report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for having weak laws protecting the public from exposure to harmful secondhand smoke.

The CDC report, published in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Review, notes that of the 50 most populous U.S. cities, six, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa, fail to completely assure nonsmoking environments inside all workplaces, restaurants and bars.

“This underscores that unlike most states, Oklahoma’s statewide smoking law prohibits cities and towns from adopting local clean indoor air ordinances to further regulate smoking inside indoor public places, even if communities would prefer such protection,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. “When the new Oklahoma Legislature convenes less than 90 days from now, a public health priority should be restoration of local rights for Oklahoma’s cities and towns to adopt stronger smoking ordinances, just as communities can do in all our neighboring states. Until then, Oklahoma will continue to struggle to improve the health of our residents and the economic health of our state.”

As more has been learned of the harmful health effects of secondhand smoke exposure, including its impact on heart disease and as a risk factor for cancer and respiratory diseases, more comprehensive smokefree laws and ordinances have been adopted. “The recent Surgeon General’s report says that secondhand smoke contains arsenic, lead, butane, and other toxic and cancer-causing chemicals,” said Tracey Strader, executive director of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust. “It is important for Oklahoma’s communities to be able to enact policies that protect their residents from toxic secondhand smoke and make their environments healthier places to live, work, learn and play.”

According to the CDC, 30 of the 50 most populous cities now have comprehensive clean indoor air laws completely banning smoking in all workplaces, restaurants and bars. This is compared to just one of these cities 12 years ago when the CDC conducted a similar study. Of the remaining 20 cities not meeting the comprehensive smokefree definition, six, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa, were cited for not having smokefree state or local laws covering workplaces, restaurants and bars. The other four cities in this group were Los Angeles, Fresno, Atlanta and Virginia Beach. Overall, 48.8 percent of the U.S. population is now covered by this type of comprehensive law and more than 64 percent of Americans live where all restaurants and bars are entirely smokefree.

“Oklahoma municipal officials should have the opportunity to establish local policies that work best to protect their respective communities,” said Carolyn Stager, executive director of the Oklahoma Municipal League. “Cities should be able to adopt policies that make their communities healthier and more attractive to businesses and economic development.”

Restoration of local rights by repealing all preemptive clauses in Oklahoma’s Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco Act and the Smoking in Public Places and Indoor Workplaces Act has been considered in recent Oklahoma legislative sessions. An amended version passed the state House of Representatives last spring, but it was not taken up by the state Senate. The issue is expected to be considered again in the 2013 session.

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