Vaughn Would Outlaw Tobacco over 25 Years

Article excerpt

Oklahomans would have 25 years to kick the tobacco habit before cigarettes, cigars and other forms of tobacco become illegal under a bill filed Wednesday by Rep. Ray Vaughn, R-Edmond.

"We're basically outlawing it in Oklahoma," he said.

House Bill 2097 would designate tobacco as a controlled dangerous substance beginning Jan. 1, 2025. Distribution or sale would be a misdemeanor punishable by a jail term of up to one year and a fine of not more than $1,000.

"We can no longer dwell in the realm of misinformation created and fostered for decades by the tobacco industry," said Vaughn. "We must, as a society, accept tobacco for what it is -- a highly additive recreational drug that kills more than 6,500 Oklahomans every year."

The lawmaker said he came up with the 25-year enactment timeline in an effort to make the transition a bit easier.

"To put it simply, tobacco kills," Vaughn said. "It's irresponsible for us, as the elected leaders of this state, to allow the continued manufacture, sale and consumption of an addictive drug which, if used as intended by the manufacturer, will lead to the death or disability of its consumer."

Asked why he set the tobacco-sales ban 25 years into the future, Vaughn said he wanted to give the state time to prepare for the loss of sales and tobacco tax revenue. From the tobacco tax alone, the state earned $44.7 million in the fiscal year ended June 30, with $41.1 million projected for this year.

Vaughn said he also realizes that many businesses rely upon tobacco sales for part of their income and need time to revamp their customer focus.

Asked whether the 25-year payout of Oklahoma's $2.5 billion from the national tobacco settlement played a part in the 25-year effective date, Vaughn said that payments actually continue perpetually as long as there are any tobacco sales in the United States.

"We're going to give ourselves time to wean ourselves from this product financially," he said. "We're going to give our citizens time to wean themselves from it physically."

The ban cannot impact sales at tribal smoke shops. However, Vaughn said that he has found the tribes willing to work with him on restricting tobacco access and enacting safeguards.

"So, I would hope they would follow suit," he said. …