Oklahoma Senate committee kills anti-smoking bill

A measure killed by the Oklahoma Senate on Monday would have changed state law to allow cities to pass their own smoke-free ordinances.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: February 18, 2013 at 9:20 pm •  Published: February 18, 2013

The debate on the measure turned into a showdown between Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Ardmore, the only senator to sign a pledge to refuse all contributions, meals and gifts from the tobacco industry, and Sen. Rob Johnson, who is listed as the No. 1 recipient on a website that tracks legislators receiving money from tobacco lobbyists.

Johnson, R-Yukon, received about $11,295 in campaign contributions and gifts from those who were identified as tobacco lobbyists since 2006, according to the website tobaccomoney.com, which was started last year by Doug Matheny, the former director of tobacco prevention at the state Health Department.

Johnson said after the meeting he doesn't keep track of money he receives from lobbyists and special interest groups and that it had no bearing on his opposition to the bill. He said the website listed money from contract lobbyists whose clients include a tobacco company.

“From the tobacco companies themselves, I don't think I've received that much comparatively to other interests,” he said. “It has absolutely nothing to do with it. I've taken max contributions from somebody and completely have been opposed to an idea they've had.”

Johnson said most employees who work at restaurants and bars that allow smoking know the risks, he said.

“There are tons of job that they could go to,” Johnson said. “Everybody knows it is not good for you.”

Restaurants' take

Sarah Smith, a bartender at the Red Rooster Bar & Grill in Oklahoma City, said smoke is just part of her job.

“I know that it does stop some people from coming in because of how smoky it does get in here, but I was a patron before I was a server, so I guess I was just used to it,” said Stone, a bartender for about three years.

Requiring bars to go smoke-free would have hurt business, she said. The Red Rooster relies on its regulars, who might not come in if the bar were smoke-free.

“A lot of them enjoy being able to sit here and have their beer and cigarette or cigar,” Stone said.

Jim Shumsky, owner of Junior's Supper Club in Oklahoma City, said that after the 2003 law required Oklahoma restaurants to either go smoke-free or provide smoking rooms, he fully enclosed his bar and created a smoke-free atmosphere. It cost about $200,000, and the restaurant spends as much as $10,000 a year changing the filter system.

“Basically we did the right thing,” he said. The bill, if passed, would appear to him that the Legislature was “trying to renig on the promise they made.”

Contributing:

Staff Writers William Crum and Jaclyn Cosgrove


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