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.
Much debate abounds regarding the causes of climate change. Not much debate has taken place regarding secondhand smoke because of the stigma attached to defending tobacco. Cigarette smoking over several decades is bad for the person smoking. In research for my book, “The War on Smokers and the Rise of the Nanny State,” I found that secondhand smoke is bad for asthmatics and may be harmful only to a nonsmoker who’s exposed to high concentrations of it over many decades, in other words to a nonsmoker who lives with a smoker.
Fallin says we have a right to breathe smoke-free air. Oklahomans do that alreaday — except in the few aforementioned ghettos were nonsmokers don’t go. Years ago the idea government would ban smoking in the open air would have been laughable. It’s not that we’ve become more scientifically aware. It’s that we have lost our common sense.
King, of Claremore, writes about tobacco policy for The Daily Caller and The Oklahoma Constitution.