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FOR RELEASE: May 16, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications

State Health Officials Comment on Governor’s Disapproval of Secondhand Tobacco Smoke Rules

State health officials said today they hope that Gov. Brad Henry will exert his leadership capacity and work aggressively with legislative leaders to assure passage of new clean indoor air legislation that will protect Oklahomans from secondhand smoke in public places and workplaces.

Their comments followed action taken last evening by the governor to disapprove rules addressing smoking inside public places and workplaces in Oklahoma.

“We have always believed that legislatively mandated protections are preferable to administrative rules in advancing public policy on this important health issue,” said State Board of Health President Dr. Ron Graves.

“We are heartened that the governor does recognize that smoking in public places is a significant health issue, however, we are also concerned that his disapproval of the secondhand smoke rules may send a false signal that this issue can be set aside,” Graves said.

Secondhand smoke is a known cause of cancer in humans and also causes heart disease and stroke. About 750 Oklahomans die each year from diseases resulting from their exposure to secondhand smoke.

“From a public health perspective, we believe that clean indoor air legislation is as important as tort reform in protecting the health of the citizens of Oklahoma,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch.

“Numerous statewide polls indicate that the overwhelming majority of Oklahomans want legislation that will assure smokefree public places and workplaces,” Beitsch continued. “As public servants, the governor and legislature must be responsive to the people of Oklahoma and work together to do whatever is necessary to protect the health of all of our state’s citizens, including those who suffer from respiratory or cardiovascular conditions that place them at risk of an acute reaction to secondhand smoke.”

On March 31, the Board of Health adopted permanent rules regulating secondhand smoke inside all indoor public places and workplaces. This followed the Board’s action taken last summer to adopt emergency rules, which were contested. Under Oklahoma law, emergency rules of a continuing nature must be replaced by permanent rules that are submitted to the legislature and the governor for review and approval.

For more information on secondhand tobacco smoke, visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health Breathe Easy Web site at: www.breatheeasyok.com.


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