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University of Oklahoma officials scrap plans for designated smoking areas

Following an executive order banning smoking on all state-owned and state-leased property, University of Oklahoma officials are scrapping a plan to leave two designated smoking areas on the Norman campus. Not everyone is happy about it.
BY SILAS ALLEN Published: February 9, 2012

On Wednesday afternoon, Trevor Nelson, a junior at the University of Oklahoma, stubbed out a cigarette and threw it in a trash can before heading to class.

Nelson said he knows about the tobacco ban that will take effect later this year. And he knows exactly what he plans to do about it.

“I will completely ignore the ban,” he said.

During Monday's State of the State address, Gov. Mary Fallin announced she had signed an executive order placing a ban on tobacco use on all state-owned and state-leased property. That ban takes effect July 1.

Fallin blamed tobacco use as one of several factors that contributed to Oklahoma's poor performance in national health rankings.

America's Health Rankings for 2011 place Oklahoma at No. 48, two spots lower than the previous year's rankings. Only Mississippi and Louisiana fell behind Oklahoma in the rankings, which are released annually by the United Health Foundation. Among other factors, the rankings cite a high prevalence of tobacco use for the low ranking.

During the address, Fallin said improving the overall health of Oklahomans is an economic imperative.

“Healthy living is important, not just because we want Oklahomans to live full and happy lives, but because the effects of unhealthy life choices hurt our economy, drain taxpayer dollars and drive up the cost of health care for everyone,” she said.

Policy superseded

The executive order came on the heels of the OU Board of Regents' vote to approve a less-strict campus tobacco policy. At its January meeting, the board approved a policy that left two designated smoking areas in parking lots near Dale Hall and the Lloyd Noble Center.

Fallin's executive order supersedes OU's campus policy, and OU spokeswoman Catherine Bishop said OU President David Boren will ask the board to approve a campus policy that is in line with Fallin's ban.

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At a glance

Does Fallin's no-smoking order extend to state-owned roads?

Although an executive order banning smoking on state-owned land may technically apply to Oklahoma highways, a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin said the governor doesn't intend for the ban to be enforced on the road.

Fallin spokesman Aaron Cooper said the executive order was intended to highlight the fact that smoking is a major health concern.

The ban is primarily geared toward areas where state employees are working, including state parks and public universities, Cooper said. He said Fallin hopes visitors to those areas will abide by the policy voluntarily.

It will largely be left up to state agencies to write a ban into their personnel policies, he said.


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