Smoking law could have saved lives, Oklahoma Board of Health members say
The state Health Board met Tuesday and discussed HB 2267, which would have changed a tobacco law in Oklahoma, allowing municipalities to set their own smoking laws.
The state Legislature missed an opportunity to save lives when a tobacco bill that expanded cities' rights died in committee, the state Health Board president said Tuesday.
“This development will have the very unfortunate consequence of slowing down our fight against the efforts and the effects of tobacco on the people of Oklahoma,” Dr. Jenny Alexopulos said at the state Health Board's meeting. “These include heart disease, lung disease, cancer, peripheral vascular disease, the list goes on. There will continue to be many lives lost as a result of this, on the order of approximately 6,000 Oklahomans per year.”
Alexopulos was referring to House Bill 2267, a bill that would have allowed local governments to adopt ordinances to control smoking in public places.
The bill made it through the Oklahoma House of Representatives, but, once sent to the Oklahoma Senate, didn't make it out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Health officials say Oklahoma and Tennessee are the only states in the nation that have laws restricting cities from passing tobacco laws stricter than the state law.
This was the second attempt to pass the bill. It also died last session.
Opponents of the bill have said it would make Oklahoma's tobacco laws confusing, being that each city could potentially have different rules about smoking.
A spokesman with Philip Morris, the nation's leading cigarette manufacturer, said the company was neutral on the bill. On its website, the company says smoking bans go too far when they ban people from smoking outdoors, except in areas primarily designed for children; in many indoor public places; when bans limit business owners' decisions, particularly those of restaurant and bar owners; and in private residences and other private places.
Dr. R. Murali Krishna, state Health Board member, said although it's frustrating to see the bill fail again, the state Health Department will see victory, in time.
“The real truth is ultimate truth prevails,” Krishna said. “Science is telling us, without any doubt, that tobacco kills, and that message will percolate, and eventually it will translate into action.”
Health care ranking
In other business, the board discussed a report recently released from The Commonwealth Fund that ranked Oklahoma's health care systems in the bottom 10 percent.