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FOR RELEASE: June 21 , 2005
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications

Commissioner Urges Restaurants to Go Smokefree

In a letter sent recently to Oklahoma’s restaurant operators, State Health Commissioner Dr. Mike Crutcher reminded restaurant owners and managers of the benefits of their facilities being totally free of tobacco smoke. The benefits are both economic as well as health-related, he noted.

“More than twice as many Oklahomans say they have avoided a restaurant because it permitted smoking than say they have avoided a restaurant because it was totally smokefree,” Crutcher said. “This is a positive indicator for totally smokefree restaurants. In addition, when other states and cities have implemented smokefree restaurant laws, the impact on restaurant business has been more positive than negative.”

Citing restaurant sales from Massachusetts, where restaurants went totally smokefree only 10 months ago, Crutcher pointed out that restaurant sales went up by nine percent in the first six months. This experience confirms that of other states and locales where similar laws have been implemented.

Oklahoma’s new smoking laws, which went into effect for most indoor workplaces and public places on Sept. 1, 2003, allowed restaurants extra time to comply. However, by March 1, 2006, less than nine months from now, all Oklahoma restaurants must be either totally smokefree, or nonsmoking with the allowance of special smoking rooms, which must be fully enclosed and separately ventilated so that the nonsmoking areas are truly smokefree. The Oklahoma State Department of Health has authority to inspect restaurant smoking rooms - if any are built - for compliance with these laws.

“Smoking rooms are expensive to build and to operate, and they also create needless health risks for employees and customers alike,” Crutcher stated. “The Oklahoma State Department of Health calls upon all restaurants to be entirely smokefree.”

Crutcher said that once the law is fully implemented, he predicts the number of smoking rooms will be low. “I expect that very few restaurant owners will choose to incur the high expenses and risk of liability associated with such smoking chambers, especially once they weigh the likely benefits of being entirely smokefree.”

Also cited in Crutcher’s letter is a study of the resale value of restaurants, published in the October 2004 issue of the journal Contemporary Economic Policy. Its authors analyzed restaurant sales records across the country, concluding that new laws requiring restaurants to be totally smokefree boosted the values of those restaurants by an average of 16 percent.


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