Cities that want to ban smoking in municipal parks would have the legal authority to do so under a measure approved by the State Senate on Wednesday. Members voted 44 to 1 in favor of Senate Bill 501 authored by Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer. The legislation would give local governments the authority to ban smoking on any property they own or operate, including municipal parks and sports complexes.
“Many communities in Oklahoma had already approved city ordinances to do that, but the Attorney General recently ruled that was a violation of state law limiting local government control over the use of tobacco,” Simpson said. “SB 501 establishes that right for county and municipal governments.”
Among those praising passage of the bill was Oklahoma Municipal League Board President Homer Nicholson, who also serves as Mayor of Ponca City.
“This is a good bill and I am happy to see it passed,” Nicholson said. “I think it is to the benefit of all citizens of the state of Oklahoma to be more aware of smoking and second-hand smoke. Statistics indicate that about 6,000 Oklahomans die each year because of smoking, and many of these deaths are from second-hand smoke. SB 501 gives local control to cities in their efforts to better protect people from the dangers of tobacco.”
Dr. Stephen Cagle, Chairman of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department Board, also applauded passage of the measure.
“On behalf of our board I want to thank Sen. Simpson for his continued hard work in protecting the health of Oklahomans. This represents a step in the right direction,” Cagle said. “Anytime you can diminish people’s exposure, especially children, to these toxins and carcinogens you’re doing a good thing. There’s more work to be done in the fight against tobacco-related illness and deaths, but this is definitely a positive step.”
Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Yukon, also voiced his strong support of SB 501.
“People have a choice about whether to do business with a restaurant or other establishment that allows smoking,” said Johnson. “But when it comes to city parks, those are owned by the public. I fully support the right of their locally elected officials to enact smoking bans on government properties. SB 501 ensures that they can.”
SB 501 will now be sent to the House of Representatives.