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Tobacco trust’s ads push for smoke bans

The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust is spending money in support of an Oklahoma House bill that would allow cities and towns to ban smoking in public places and workplaces.
BY ANDREW KNITTLE Published: March 3, 2012

The agency responsible for administering tobacco settlement funds in Oklahoma is airing commercials that appear to support legislation that would allow cities and towns to ban smoking in public places.

One recent ad campaign, called “Smokefree Cities,” draws attention to the fact that Oklahoma doesn't have a law that allows local control over smoking rules.

The campaign was produced and aired by the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, the state agency in charge of managing money funneled to Oklahoma through the Master Settlement Agreement with Big Tobacco, signed in 1998.

“Oklahoma's communities are some of the greatest places to live, but there's one thing other great places have that we don't,” a narrator says in the ad.

“Most of the places around us have clean indoor air.”

The female narrator lists numerous nearby cities, including Dallas and Kansas City, Mo., that have laws in place giving local governments control over whether to allow smoking in public places.

“It's time we catch up ... let's sharpen our competitive edge,” the voice says at the end of the commercial. “It's time for Oklahoma communities to have the right to choose smoke-free.”

Julie Bisbee, a trust spokeswoman, said the trust has run ads similar to the “Smokefree Cities” campaign in the past. She said doing so is essential when competing against a monolithic entity like the tobacco industry.

“Last year, we did one where there was a guy playing golf in a bar, and he was like, ‘It's a free country.' Kind of like somebody smoking in a bar,” Bisbee said.

“It's part of our role ... commercials and mass media are one of the best ways to get that information out there, and it's in line with what we were created to do.”

State ranks high on spending

And while some states have shown little effort in spending tobacco settlement money on programs and efforts to help people quit and prevent people from starting smoking, Oklahoma ranks high when it comes to such spending.

According to figures provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oklahoma ranked seventh in spending on tobacco prevention in 2011, doling out $21.7 million.

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