Smoking Regulations Begin to Take Effect

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY (JR) -- Several laws were passed during the 2002 legislative session restricting smoking in some manner, including one that affects the State Capitol and other public buildings as of July 1.

Another new law bans the sale of flavored cigarettes to minors, and yet another new law modifies state requirements governing "No Smoking" signs in public buildings. Another gives the state leverage to enforce the terms of the national tobacco settlement.

All of the measures were written by Rep. Raymond L. Vaughn, R- Edmond, and Sen. Ben Robinson, D-Muskogee.

Senate Bill 1553 incorporates some of the controversial proposals of the state Board of Health. The legislation was scaled down from an initial attempt to ban smoking in all public places.

The health board has twice passed sweeping rules to limit smoking in public places. Its latest rules, approved June 6, would require facilities that offer a smoking section to provide proper ventilation to protect against secondhand smoke. Smoking rooms would have to be enclosed and ventilated so no smoke could circulate into any nonsmoking area.

If the governor signs the rules they will take effect July 1.

Under Senate Bill 1553, smoking is banned in all buildings owned or operated by the state of Oklahoma.

This includes state-owned resorts and State Capitol offices of legislators. However, each state building can have one room designated for smoking -- the State Capitol smoking room is in the basement. Also, smoking is permitted in the bars and up to one- fourth of the rooms at state lodges.

The decision whether to make county or city buildings smoke-free is left to the discretion of the governing body under the new law. All buildings owned or operated by a county or municipality can be designated entirely as nonsmoking, a smoking room can be reserved in each, or smoking can be allowed. Also, any smoking ban imposed by a municipality or county can be extended to the local jail.

Senate Bill 1553 requires that a smoking room in a public building:

* Cannot be used as a location for conducting public business.

* Must be fully enclosed.

* Will have to be equipped with an exhaust system vented outside and can be located no closer than 25 feet to any air intaken.

* Will have to be under negative air pressure so smoke cannot escape when a door is opened, and no air is recirculated to nonsmoking areas of the building.

Additionally, smoking will not be tolerated within 25 feet of the entrance or exit of any state building.

Another new law, Senate Bill 1504, regulates the sale of "bidis."

Bidis are cigarettes flavored with chocolate, vanilla or fruit -- and pack more nicotine and tar than their non-flavored conventional counterparts. Bidis release two to three times more cancer-causing tars and up to seven time more nicotine than regular cigarettes, without their adverse taste or smell.

Vaughn said that these flavored cigarettes are obviously targeted at children.

Senate Bill 1504 adds the flavored "bidis" cigarettes, which are imported primarily from India, to the list of products that cannot be sold to minors. Statutes already ban the sale of cigarettes, cigarette papers, snuff, chewing tobacco or any other form of tobacco product to children. …