Colleges and universities that opt to be tobacco free could fine people who violate the policy, under two measures that were moving through the Legislature on Thursday.
Senate Bill 1674 by Sen. James Halligan, R-Stillwater, would allow all buildings in the state’s higher education system to be tobacco free if administrators agreed to it. The ban would apply to smoking and smokeless tobacco under the measure that passed the Senate in a vote of 29-11 Thursday. A similar measure, House Bill 2758 by Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, passed the House on Thursday in a vote of 81-11.
The Senate bill would also make it a misdemeanor, punishable with a fine up to $100, to smoke or use tobacco on a campus that has been declared tobacco free.
Halligan’s bill in the Senate prompted several questions and debate from senators who worried that banning tobacco on a college campus would infringe on individual rights.
"Do you want to make smoking illegal?” asked Sen. Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City. "I personally don’t smoke, but we can’t be selective about the liberties we have. It’s these little ankle biters that will trip us up.”
Halligan pointed out that Oklahoma State University has successfully made its campus tobacco free.
"It’s perfectly appropriate for the regents to decide this,” Halligan said. "They (administrators) know their institutions.”
Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso, who also said he’s a nonsmoker, said government efforts to limit smoking amounted to government encroachment.
"This is hypocrisy, if we bring these issues to limit smoking,” Brogdon said.
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