Oklahoma City Council members want you to know they prefer if you don't smoke outside in city parks. But there's not much the city can do about it if you smoke anyway.
The council unanimously voted for a resolution Tuesday that declares outdoor areas of city parks to be smoke-free. But unless the state attorney general clears up Oklahoma's official opinion on state laws regarding anti-
The resolution, recommended by the city Parks Commission, included an amendment proposed by Councilman Ed Shadid that emphasizes the use of signs to notify people in the park of the policy. Shadid provided the council with an example of similar signs in other cities, many of which reflect a policy like Oklahoma City's that isn't enforceable but discourage smoking nonetheless.
Shadid, a physician, said the measure is intended to protect the health of children, whose parents may already politely ask someone nearby to refrain from smoking, but who are unlikely to make the request on their own. But he emphasized the economic development implications for companies that could move jobs here but are concerned with the high health care costs associated with smoking.
“Our health care costs are so much higher here, and part of the reason is one out of four people smoking, and part of that is the messages that children receive,” Shadid said.
A state attorney general's opinion from the 1987 appears to prohibit cities from enacting anti-
Shadid pointed out some legal experts disagree the opinion prohibits it, but Jordan said an updated opinion is needed for the city to be sure, and he's drafting a request for the council to approve later that requests a new and clarified opinion. Until then, the city cannot enforce the resolution in any way.
Councilman Pat Ryan also argued the signs could effectively bully smokers who think that lighting up would be illegal when that's not the case.
“I think we need to be careful that we don't imply something that we don't mean,” Mayor Mick Cornett said in agreement. “But I think we can get the message out, and there will be some level of
Anti-tobacco use advocates told the council the signs should have an effect. Brittney Hodges of the Oklahoma County Tobacco Use Prevention Coalition imagined a scenario when an 8-year-old notices an anti-smoking sign and asked his father to do what it says and stop smoking in the park.
“If you have that sign up, a lot of times people will be courteous and put it out,” Hodges said.
City Manager Jim Couch told council members they will have the opportunity to review and approve what will appear on the signs.