Smoking reprieve for veterans centers gains Oklahoma House approval

Residents of veterans centers would be allowed to smoke in ventilated smoking rooms until the end of the year and in designated outdoor smoking areas until Jan. 1, 2018, under a compromise bill approved Wednesday by the state House of Representatives.
by Randy Ellis Published: April 17, 2014
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Residents of veterans centers would be allowed to smoke in ventilated smoking rooms until the end of the year and in designated outdoor smoking areas until Jan. 1, 2018, under a compromise bill approved Wednesday by the state House of Representatives.

Had the bill failed, it would have been illegal to smoke in veterans centers because of a current ban against smoking on state property.

Senate Bill 1777 passed the House 74-11 and will now go to the governor.

Several House members argued against the bill, saying they didn’t think it was right for the state to be telling veterans they have to quit.

State Rep. Jerry McPeak, D-Warner, asked House members to visualize veterans “rolling their wheelchairs across the highway so they can have a cigarette,” because he said that’s what will happen when the ban on smoking in veterans centers takes effect in 2018.

State Rep. Pat Ownbey, R-Ardmore, urged members to vote for the bill to keep the ban from starting immediately and said they could sponsor future legislation to continue to allow smoking if they choose.

Ownbey said the bill was a compromise between the governor’s staff, veterans groups and others.

A spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin said SB 1777 supports the governor’s goal of transitioning all state facilities to smoke-free environments.

“The governor is pleased that a compromise was reached that will ultimately deliver a healthier environment at the state’s veterans centers,” Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said.

by Randy Ellis
Capitol Bureau Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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