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Oklahoma crusade against smoking, e-cigarettes has gone far enough

Published: February 7, 2014

As the Legislature convenes, I recommend legislators concentrate on real issues facing this state and use less effort regulating our behaviors regarding smoking and electronic cigarettes. The crusade against them has gone far enough.

A TV commercial now airing shows cigarette smoke from one apartment seeping into an adjoining apartment where a child is playing with toys on the floor — a far-fetched phenomenon. Is the state now seriously suggesting people not be allowed to smoke in their own homes? If Oklahoma is really having to spend so much money treating smoking-related illnesses, why spend its share of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco companies on media ads rather than on treating those illnesses?

Late last year, state Secretary of Health and Human Services Terry Cline called for an indoor ban on electronic cigarettes; just before Christmas, Gov. Mary Fallin banned by executive order e-cigarette use on all state properties beginning Jan. 1. I took part in a protest of that ban at the state Capitol on New Year’s Day and pointed out to the newspaper and television reporters that the Oklahoma flag has a tobacco pipe on it.

I smoked my pipe in defiance of state law; others “vaped” e-cigarettes. About 100 feet from us was a state trooper in his vehicle who could have told us to leave. He didn’t.

Republicans and Democrats at the Capitol have on several occasions attempted to ban smoking in the few remaining businesses that are legally allowed to have indoor smoking, such as stand-alone bars and separately and expensively ventilated rooms in restaurants. Why do some legislators who claim to be for free enterprise want to impose government controls over business owners? If business owners want to cater to people who smoke, that’s their business. Any further ban on smoking in Oklahoma would exclude tribal casinos, where smoking is permitted because the tribes are sovereign and therefore aren’t subject to state law.

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