Tulsa considers no smoking ordinance

Wednesday, October 15th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ The Tulsa City Council is considering an ordinance that would make it easier to enforce a new state law on smoking in public places.

The ordinance would allow Health Department officials or police officers to write citations for people caught smoking in public places.

The proposed ordinance would set a penalty for the offense between $10 and $100 for any person who knowingly violates it.

Under state law, authorities must obtain a warrant through the District Attorney's office to prosecute violators with the misdemeanor crime.

The new rules, signed into law by Gov. Brad Henry, prohibits smoking in public work places unless there is a separately ventilated room.

The Tulsa City-County Health Department is asking the council to adopt an ordinance that mirrors a public smoking law that went into effect Sept. 1.

Restaurants, which initially fought smoking regulations with court challenges and well-organized lobbying campaigns, have until March 1, 2006, to comply with the rules.

Stand-alone bars, bingo halls and tobacco stores are exempt.

Health Department Director Gary Cox said the Health Department would receive 50 percent of the revenues generated from fines to violators.

The funds would be spent for educational purposes and programs that help people stop smoking.

``Adopting the ordinance is a progressive step to protect public health,'' he said.

During a discussion of the proposed ordinance, Councilor Sam Roop voiced support.

``I've been silent on this issue way too long,'' Roop said. ``I think it's time to rid our indoors of a pollutant that is very bad for our health.''

Councilor Joe Williams said he, too, supports the ordinance.

``There is no such thing as harmless secondhand smoke,'' Williams said.

Nationwide, smoking kills 450,000 people a year, including 3,000 in Oklahoma, said Health Department Director Gary Cox said.

Of the Oklahoma deaths, about a third, or roughly 700, are attributable to secondhand smoke.