OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ An Oklahoma health service provider is trying to stamp out what it calls the state's tobacco epidemic.
Integris Health, which operates a system of 15 hospitals across the state, has launched an advertising campaign warning of the dangers of smoking and criticizing policy makers who, hospital officials say, are promoting a deadly habit.
The ad takes jabs at the ``state Capitol smoke blower,'' who could be ``..a lobbyist whose job it is to protect tobacco sales,'' a tobacco industry representatives or a state legislator, the ad says.
These people are bad for the health of Oklahoma the ad says because they ``work to keep cigarette taxes low and tobacco volume high.''
Stanley Hupfeld, president and CEO of Integris said the ads are a strict public health message and are not the typical hospital advertisement.
``(The ads) don't say anything about Integris, don't talk about our equipment, don't talk about our facilities,'' Hupfeld said.
Hupfeld said the ad, which appeared last week in The Daily Oklahoman, was meant ``to be reasonably hard-hitting.''
Integris has been disappointed that some elected and appointed leaders haven't recognized the danger smoking represents, particularly to young people, Hupfeld said.
``Our attitude is we are the largest provider of health services in the state of Oklahoma, and if somebody should be speaking out on these issues, why not us?'' Hupfeld said.
``Do we not have an obligation to take a leadership role, or at least help the state Health Department take a leadership role? That's kind of what we're trying to do.''
Integris is supporting the state Health Board's June 6 rules designed to limit smoking in restaurants, he said. The enforcement of those rules, signed by Gov. Frank Keating, has been tied up in legal proceedings as the Oklahoma Restaurant Association has challenged them.
``We think the state Health Department has taken a lot of abuse for doing what they should be doing, and we think that abuse is being led by the tobacco lobby,'' Hupfeld said.
Restaurant association officials declined to comment.
Earlier this month, the restaurant association proposed a law banning all smoking in public places, including private offices.
The proposal would ultimately have to be approved by two-thirds majority of voters.