Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Gov. Mary Fallin took a courageous stand against what she correctly labeled “Oklahoma’s No. 1” killer in her State of the State address on Monday: Tobacco. Smoking and other tobacco products account for the death of 6,000 Oklahomans each year and cost Oklahomans billions of dollars in increased health care costs and lost workforce productivity. Reducing smoking in Oklahoma is not just a lifeand-death issue, it’s a quality of life issue and an economic issue.
To help reduce smoking and the exposure to secondhand smoke, the governor is proposing the restoration of local rights to communities, which would now be able to decide for themselves whether to implement stricter tobacco controls in public places like bars and restaurants.
Recent history demonstrates that local tobacco bans make a real difference. As the governor argued in her address, the city of Pueblo, Colo., saw a 30 percent reduction in heart attacks after it enacted a tobacco ban in bars and taverns. As Smoke Free Oklahoma is quick to point out, studies in Colorado, Indiana, Montana, New York, and several countries overseas have all shown a correlation between stricter local smoking ordinances and better health outcomes.
The tobacco lobby may not like the idea of local control, but most everyone else does. The medical and health care industry immediately embraced Gov. Fallin’s proposal, filling inboxes across the state with press releases in support. Polling data on the issue also shows a strong majority of Oklahomans support local control of smoking regulations, as do almost 70 percent of restaurant owners, the only constituency besides smokers that one might suspect to be the natural opposition.
Furthermore, at least 10 city councils have already passed resolutions asking the Legislature to adopt local control measures. We encourage the Lawton City Council to do the same.
Gov. Fallin’s proposal is a bold one, and it deserves the enthusiastic support of our legislators. Even those lawmakers who are not inclined to take on tobacco should be able to support the restoration of local rights. After all, a vote for the governor’s proposal is not a vote to ban smoking from bars, it’s a vote to put this decision back in the hands of city councils across the state.
The best government is one that governs closest to the people, and we urge our legislators to allow Lawton — not the powers that be in Oklahoma City — to chart its own course when it comes to smoking.