Smoke up 

Credit: Brad Gregg

Current statute pre-empts municipalities from enacting smoking ordinances stricter than what state law has enacted.

The measure to repeal that preemption was strongly backed by Gov. Mary Fallin, who had made it a key part of her legislative agenda.

Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Kingfisher, headed much of the
committee debate against the measure. It is likely sheer coincidence
that he’s also the state’s top recipient for receiving campaign
contributions from tobacco interests.

The total investment in Johnson by
tobacco-related groups and individuals is more than $10,000, according
to tobaccomoney.com.

The
lawmaker insisted he doesn’t keep track of what lobbyists donate to him
and said that such contributions had nothing to do with his stance on
the issue. Senate Bill 36, he had argued, would infringe on the rights
of business people.

The right of people not to breathe secondhand smoke? Not so much.

The failure of that bill to scrap tobacco pre-emption —
heck, its failure to even pass out of a Senate committee — didn’t
exactly reflect well for the power-broker skills of Fallin.

But
the governor impressively turned lemons into tobacco-hating lemonade.
The day after the defeat of SB 36, Fallin unveiled an initiative petition
to push for restrictions on secondhand smoke.

Credit: Brad Gregg

“Improving
health and wellness in Oklahoma is a priority for me,” said Fallin, who
noted in her State of the State speech that both of her parents had
died of smoking-related illness.

“Smoking is the No. 1 cause of
preventable death in Oklahoma, killing 6,000 men and women each year.
Hundreds of these people aren’t even smokers and have instead fallen ill
as a result of secondhand smoke.”

She
made the announcement in a news conference at the state Capitol, where
an observer had even come costumed as the Grim Reaper.

Presumably, the
governor had not invited him and his scythe for a photo-op the day she
rejected federal dollars for a Medicaid expansion that would cover about
180,000 people not currently eligible.

People can sign the petition at DontSmokeOnMe.com.

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