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Cities cannot mandate smoke-free parks, Oklahoma attorney general opinion rules

Because of restrictions in Oklahoma’s state law, cities cannot pass ordinances banning smoking in public parks, according to an Oklahoma attorney general opinion released last week.

BY JACLYN COSGROVE Published: February 12, 2013

This effort marks the fourth time that state health officials have pushed for a bill like Senate Bill 36.

The bill has been sent to Oklahoma Senate Health and Human Services committee, where it could, among other things, pass to the Senate to be heard or not be heard this session.

The committee’s chairman, Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, said he does not anticipate hearing the bill in the health and human services committee.

“The problem that I have is — this is just an example of creeping legislation, in that incrementally, we are outlawing tobacco, and rather than doing this a little bit at time, I’m saying, ‘Let’s just do this all at once,’” Crain said.

“Let’s either decide whether or not we are going to ban tobacco smoking in Oklahoma.”

There’s a conversation to be had about the fundamental issue of whether Oklahoma will ban tobacco or continue to use the efforts of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the state Health Department to educate people on the dangers of smoking, Crain said.

“I’m a huge fan of education,” Crain said. “I don’t know that I’m a huge fan of forcing a prohibition on people.”

Gov. Mary Fallin said in her State of the State address that she supported the efforts to restore local control to cities and towns regarding tobacco use in public places. Fallin gave the example that many public health leaders point to — Pueblo, Colo.

Fallin said after the city of Pueblo implemented a tobacco ban in local taverns and restaurants, they saw a decrease in the city’s heart attack rate.

“The families living in cities and towns across Oklahoma deserve that same opportunity,” Fallin said in her speech. “If communities want to take action to improve the health of their citizens, they should be able to do it.”

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