Gov’s Push to Stop Smoking
This is the second in a three part series. You can find the first story here:
If you’ve ever been in the basement of the State Capitol and smelt smoke, it’s not the ghost of lawmakers past, but a smoking room not far from the snack bar.
This small space has been the haven for the few remaining smokers on 23rd and Lincoln since a crack down on tobacco nearly ten years ago.
The announcement dropped like a bombshell as one of the few surprises by Governor Mary Fallin in her state of the state address.
“I have signed an executive order that will prohibit tobacco on all state property, and I’m not finished we’re also going to close the smoking room in the capitol.”
Now, for those not familiar with it, the smoking room is a 13 by 15 foot room in the basement.
The small space has two separate doors, but at one time it was so packed with people that cigarette smoke still seeped out into the hall.
Now, just about a decade after a law was passed to reduce smoking in state buildings only a few workers at the capitol go down there to have a cigarette, play cards and socialize.
It’s also a place for the two or three lawmakers left who smoke.
“As a smoker I wasn’t too happy, needless to say, I’ve smoked about 51 years.”
That’s State Representative Paul Roan who says other smokers in the capitol aren’t too happy with the plan.
The Tishomingo Democrat’s been looking into the executive order and says the Governor’s plan not only affects those in the smoking room, but anywhere else on the capitol complex.
“Technically, I have a parking spot in the circle out here. If I went to my own personal pickup which I own sitting on state property and smoked in my own vehicle I could be considered to be in violation of the executive order.”
Outside of the Sequoyah building in the capitol complex one state worker is enjoying a cigarette.
Donna says many smokers are upset with the recent crackdowns on cigarettes, and she understands it’s about her health.
“Don’t care for that premise of it, but I mean I don’t know what smokers are supposed to do. I really don’t, but if we have to leave to do it fine we get two breaks.”
Donna says it’s just another way smokers have had to go along with the majority of Oklahomans who don’t smoke.
“You just adjust you use your car or whatever, I’m sure we’ll adjust again. As long as they don’t invade our homes with some of their impositions I suppose we’ll be okay.”
The American Heart Association is celebrating the order by the Governor.
Government Relations Director Marilyn Davidson says companies looking to relocate want to find places where health concerns are a high priority for a state.
Davidson says the Governor’s order will help attract more businesses.
“For our governor to stand up and say that it’s important for her to make sure all of our state offices are smoke free and we’re going to at least protect our state employees from the dangers of second hand smoke sends a very strong message to the business owners in Oklahoma.”
The governor also plans to make the smoke room into a place for employees to exercise which Davidson says provides even more opportunity for health.
“More Oklahomans die of cardiovascular disease than anything else so we are working very hard to reverse that trend, so by eliminating second hand smoke and providing opportunities for people to get more active we can work toward that goal.”
The Department of Health wants to help smokers quit.
It set up a cessation assistance helpline in 2003 funded through the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.
A first of its kind in the nation at the time, it was quickly copied in other states and nationwide.
The Governor’s executive order takes effect July First.