Despite a vote showing majority support for campus smoking restrictions, Student Congress has no plans to enact new smoking policies. A 2009 UOSA ballot question revealed that 70 percent of voting students were in favor of a smoking restriction on the OU-Norman Campus, Congress Chairman Brett Stidham said in an e-mail.
A campus survey conducted in the spring concluded that 71 percent of students agree or strongly agree that smoking Glamour should only be allowed in designated areas. The same survey found that 48 percent believed smoking should be prohibited on sidewalks, Stidham said.
More research is necessary before any action will be taken by student government to restrict smoking on the Norman campus, Stidham said.
Currently, smoking in all indoor public places in Oklahoma except stand-alone bars, cigar bars and tobacco stores is banned.
A state statute enacted 23 years ago prevents any city in Oklahoma from regulating tobacco use in public places more restrictively than state law.
House Speaker-elect Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, plans to introduce a bill in the next legislative session that would allow communities to set stricter standards.
“Decisions affecting Oklahomans are better made in Oklahoma City than in Washington D.C.,” Steele said in an e-mail. “Decisions impacting the people of Shawnee are better made at city hall than the state Capitol. That is why we should amend Oklahoma law so citizens can determine smoking and other tobacco regulation in their local communities.”
The Legislative Committee and Board identified the local rights issue as a priority for the 2011 legislative session, according to a release.
The City of Norman adopted a smoking ban for all city parks two summers ago, but there are no initiatives at this time to change any smoking regulation in the city, Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said.
Steele said one size does not fit all and local officials elected by local citizens are in the best position to determine the level of tobacco regulation needed and desired in their home towns.
“We believe the governing officials that are closest to the people are best able to govern the citizens of their community,” said Carolyn Stager, executive director of the Oklahoma Municipal League. The group represents more than 300 cities and towns in the state.
Stager said she has confidence in Oklahoma’s elected officials to not make any rash decisions that would affect the business environment within their communities, and it is not likely city officials will begin preparations for creating an entirely smoke-free city.
Oklahoma’s ban on smoking in public appears to be working and he sees no need to eliminate the preemption language, which allows for smoking policies to be consistent across the state, a tobacco company spokesman said.
“We believe the current statewide smoking law works just fine,” said Frank Lester, a spokesman for North Carolina-based Reynolds American Inc. “Nothing in that law prevents a business owner from going smoke-free if they wish to do so. If an establishment caters to adults only, we see no reason they should not be allowed to have smoking.”
Tennessee is the only other state in the nation with a preemption policy that prevents cities from pursuing their own tobacco regulations stricter than state law.