Health Department seeking transfer of smoking lawsuit

Thursday, August 1st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma Department of Health asked the state Supreme Court on Thursday to transfer a lawsuit that would stop the implementation of new smoking rules.

A Sapulpa restaurant and a Veterans of Foreign Wars post sued the state June 27 to block the rules, which had been signed by Gov. Frank Keating a day earlier.

The Health Department asked the state's high court to prohibit additional action in the case and to transfer it to Oklahoma County, the official residence of the agency, the state Board of Health and Keating.

The rules would would require restaurants with seating for 50 or more patrons to be designated as either entirely smoking, entirely smoke-free or virtually smoke free, in which case smoking would be permitted only in enclosed rooms to prevent the escape of secondhand smoke.

Similar rules would apply to indoor workplaces.

Officials argued that transferring the case would be in accordance with well-established law on jurisdiction, which says the appropriate venue for actions against public officials should be in the county of residence.

Attorneys for the restaurant and the VFW post could not immediately be reached for comment.

``We want to resolve these legal issues so that we can move forward with implementing the secondhand smoke rules,'' State Health Commissioner Leslie Beitsch said. ``Our overriding concern has always been, and continues to be, protecting the health of all Oklahomans.''