A statewide prohibition of tobacco products on all state property and in state-owned buildings and vehicles takes effect Monday.
Those caught smoking or chewing tobacco won't face a fine or jail time. The prohibition, issued by Gov. Mary Fallin through an executive order she signed at the start of this year's legislation session in early February, contains no provisions for punishment.
“There are no fines or anything that's in place with that,” said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Chris West. “If people are coming into state buildings and they're violating it, they'll probably be visited with and asked to refrain from that. And if they continue, they'll probably just be asked to leave.:
Motorists who smoke while driving in their personal vehicles on state highways can breathe a sigh of relief: The governor's executive order isn't being applied to them.
The Central Services Department has been implementing the tobacco ban at the state Capitol along with 18 buildings in the Capitol complex and state office buildings in Tulsa since July 1.
John Morrison, administrator of the Central Services Department, said no problems have been reported in those buildings.“I have not heard a single complaint of a violation,” he said. “In fact, it's been completely quiet ... It's been seamless.”
Fallin announced her executive order to prohibit the use of tobacco products on state property during her State of the State address Feb. 6 to start the four-month legislative session. Implementation was to take place no later than six months after her proclamation; by Monday, tobacco products at all state-owned and leased properties and in state-owned and leased buildings and vehicles will be banned.
Fallin made the ban effective several months later to give state employees time to consider taking smoking cessation programs.
The governor said the purpose of the tobacco ban is to protect the health of employees and people visiting state-owned properties.
It also is intended to drive down one of the major factors of increasing health care costs for state employees, decrease employee absenteeism and increase productivity, said Alex Weintz, Fallin's communications director. The ban is expected to save the state $5.2 million annually.
Smoking is the No. 1 cause of death in Oklahoma and the U.S., he said.
“This is about creating a healthier state and healthier workplaces for the thousands of state employees that we have,” he said.
Weintz said each state agency is responsible for coming up with plans to implement the governor's order.
“Each agency has been given flexibility on how they enforce it, but as of Monday tobacco use is prohibited on state-owned land and buildings,” he said. “The smoking ban is largely self-enforcing ... They don't need to come with hefty fines or penalties.”
Most agencies are putting up signs telling visitors and employees that no tobacco use is allowed.
It's unclear how the executive order will affect veterans residing at the state's seven centers for veterans. Belinda White, a state Veterans Affairs Department spokeswoman, said the agency's governing board, the War Veterans Commission, hasn't decided how to enforce the order. The commission's next meeting is Aug. 16.
It's estimated about 20 percent of the nearly 1,400 veterans living at the centers are tobacco users.
The tobacco prohibition won't have an effect at Oklahoma State University. The Stillwater campus has been tobacco free since 2008. OSU was the first state university to go tobacco-free, a spokesman said.
All three University of Oklahoma campuses, which include all athletic venues, are tobacco-free, an OU spokeswoman said.
Sandy Pantlik, a spokeswoman for the state Tourism and Recreation Department, said signs indicating tobacco use is prohibited will be placed in state resorts and its more than 30 state parks. Smoking receptacles and ashcans near entranceways will be removed, she said.
Visitors who are seen smoking or chewing tobacco products will be asked by employees to stop, she said. Supervisors will talk with employees who are discovered using tobacco products on state property.
“We'll be working with people to make this as uneventful and as easy as possible,” Pantlik said. “We're going to use it as an opportunity to educate and just to make our facilities more enjoyable and healthier.”