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Senate OKs Smokefree Workplace Bill

Sen. Robinson discusses SJR 21, which is aimed at smoking in public places.

OKLAHOMA CITY State Senators Wednesday approved legislation that will create smokefree workplaces for hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans and a healthier atmosphere for the states nonsmokers and children. Senate Joint Resolution 2 calls for a ban on smoking in most work places and other public places, including restaurants. Senators voted 3 to 9 for the bill, which now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson called the 39 vote a major victory for the health of Oklahomans. In the decade of the 990s, Oklahoma was the only state in the nation in which the health of its citizens actually declined. The life expectancy in our state is less than in Guatemala. Those unpleasant facts can be linked to the large portion of our population that smokes and to the negative effects of second hand smoke on the rest of us, said Hobson, DLexington. We have taken an historic step today to improve the health of our state. The legislation will give restaurants 30 months from September , 2003, to either go smoke free or construct an enclosed and separately ventilated smoking section. Hobson said he is hopeful most restaurants will follow the growing trend and go smoke free before that time. Senator Ben Robinson, a longtime health advocate, presented the bill on the Senate floor. He said the delay in implementation of the smoking ban in restaurants will give those restaurants that choose to construct an enclosed smoking section time to do so. The net result is that by March , 200, restaurants will either be smoke free or smoking will be confined to a room where it cant endanger the health of nonsmoking families and children, said Robinson, DMuskogee. The measure exempts standalone bars, standalone taverns and cigar bars any room where licensed charitable bingo games are being operated and private offices occupied exclusively by one or more smokers from the restrictions. Facilities owned by veterans organizations will also be exempt except at times when those facilities are open to the public. In debating in favor of the measure on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon, Robinson, 9, said he once had a lot of friends who were lifelong smokers. That number has dwindled over the years as many of those friends have died and others have experienced serious health problems and quit smoking We cant do anything for them at this point. Were doing this for our young people so that they wont ever start smoking and face those same consequences, Robinson said. Hobson said the issue is personal for him and should be for other parents and grandparents. This is a victory for our children. Its a victory for my 3yearold grandson, who will be in 200. When that time comes I can now be certain that he can go to a restaurant in our state and never have to whiff a puff of smoke. Thats very important to me, Hobson said.

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