Giving cities the ability to pass smoking laws stronger than state law will be the state Board of Health's main priority during Oklahoma's next legislative session.
Oklahoma and Tennessee are the only states that restrict cities from passing smoking ordinances stricter than state law, according to the state Health Department.
Dr. R. Murali Krishna, Health Board president, said at Tuesday's board meeting that, through restricting tobacco use, Oklahoma can improve the health of its residents.
“Government cannot legislate health,” Krishna said. “But there are some legislative processes like local control that are more conducive to healthier behaviors.”
Board members agreed that it would be their No. 1 priority to get the law passed. During the last legislative session, House Bill 2267 would have allowed local governments to adopt ordinances to control smoking in public places.
The bill made it through the state House of Representatives, but, once sent to the state Senate, it didn't make it out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Tuesday's meeting served as a tri-board meeting of the state Board of Health, the Oklahoma City-County Board of Health and the Tulsa City-County Board of Health.
The strength of the agencies when they collaborate was the overall theme of the meeting. The groups work together when compiling their budget requests from the Legislature and also in uniting on public health legislative matters.
“Isn't it great to be together with like-minded people when it comes to forwarding the health of Oklahoma?” said Dr. Stephen Cagle, the Oklahoma City-County Board of Health chairman.