Lawmakers hammer out smoking restrictions

Saturday, May 24th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Tougher smoking rules will not take place until 2006 under legislation that passed out of a House-Senate committee on Friday.

The three-year delay in more stringent anti-smoking laws in restaurants arose during negotiations with the Oklahoma Restaurant Association, said state Sen. Ben Robinson, D-Muskogee, a proponent of anti-smoking laws.

Under Senate Joint Resolution 21, smoking will be barred in most public places, except for bars and cigar bars. Smoking also will be allowed in restaurants where more than 60 percent of the revenues come from alcohol sales and where no one under 21 is allowed.

The resolution will be considered before the mandatory adjournment of the Legislature on Friday.

Richard Barnes, chairman of the Oklahoma Alliance on Health or Tobacco, said the bill ``is a good, strong piece of legislation and it truly will protect people.''

``I have to give a tremendous amount of credit to (Senate President Pro Tem Cal) Hobson and Senator Robinson because they worked very, very hard to get the restaurant association to this point. They told us late (Thursday) that was as far as they could get the restaurant association to go.''

Hobson, D-Lexington, is principal author of the measure, which was requested by the restaurant association earlier this year. Robinson, D-Muskogee, is author of another anti-smoking bill.

Until March 1, 2006, restaurants can have designated smoking and nonsmoking areas or can be designated as totally nonsmoking, according to the measure.

Beginning March 1, 2006, restaurants shall be totally nonsmoking or may provide nonsmoking areas and designated smoking rooms.

Food and beverages may be served in the designated smoking rooms, the legislation states.

The smoking rooms must be in a location that is fully enclosed, directly exhausted to the outside, under negative air pressure so smoke cannot escape when a door is opened, and no air can be recirculated to nonsmoking areas of the building, the measure states.

Smoking would be allowed in outdoor seating areas of a restaurant, Robinson said.

The measure also would allow smoking in up to 25 percent of guest rooms at a hotel or other lodging establishments, according to the bill.

Smoking is banned in state- owned public buildings. A separate smoking room in state-owned public buildings is allowed.