Panel approves bill giving Oklahoma cities power to ban smoking

For the second year in a row an Oklahoma House committee approved a bill that would allow local governments to have the power to ban smoking in public places.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: February 22, 2012
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For the second year in a row, a House committee approved a bill that would allow local governments to have the power to ban smoking in public places.

The House of Representatives Public Health Committee passed House Bill 2267 by a vote of 8-5. It now goes to the House floor.

The same committee passed a similar measure last year. It never was brought up on the House floor. That measure, however, would have given local governments the ability to use local law enforcement to check on tobacco violations, which is not included in this year's version.

HB 2267 would not give cities power over how tobacco is marketed, sold or taxed, said Rep. Doug Cox, the measure's author.

HB 2267 would repeal state laws preventing cities and towns from enacting tobacco use restrictions stricter than the state's.

Cox said Oklahoma is one of only two states with so-called pre-emption laws. Tennessee is the other one.

Cox, R-Grove, said the proposal would allow cities to decide whether to ban smoking in public places, such as bars.

“Some cities may elect not to do anything,” he said. “It will be an entirely local issue.” Health Commissioner Terry Cline told committee members that smoking is Oklahoma's leading preventable cause of death.

Jim Hopper, president and chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association, said after the meeting his group opposed the measure because different regulations by different cities would be confusing.

“We like the fact that whatever the rules are, whatever the law is, that it's applied statewide rather than allowing individual communities to set their own regulations,” he said. “We have multiunit operators that have to train those people. That's a business issue. They have to train their employees and they want to be able to move them around. If the rules are different in all the different locations, then it's just hard.”

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