Governor Keating approves new anti-smoking rules

Wednesday, June 26th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ New limits were placed on smoking in many Oklahoma restaurants and other businesses Wednesday under rules approved by Gov. Frank Keating.

The state Health Department rules require restaurants with no-smoking sections and seating capacities of 50 or more to enclose and properly ventilate areas where smoking is allowed.

The rules apply only to food and drinking establishments with no-smoking sections. Those that allow smoking throughout the entire business are not affected.

``These rules are fair and a substantial step toward reducing the public's exposure to dangerous secondhand smoke,'' Keating said in a prepared statement. ``Public establishments which allow smoking should always do whatever they can to minimize its impact on the non-smoking public.''

The rules also apply to bars, taverns and pool halls.

``I commend those restaurants and other establishments which have made the decision to eliminate smoking, but I also respect restaurant owners who feel their patrons want to smoke,'' he said.

Keating rejected proposed health department rules applying to restaurants with a seating capacity below 50.

``It would be financially restrictive for most smaller, mom-and-pop type restaurants to have to build smoking rooms to comply with these rules,'' he said. ``It's best that we focus instead on the larger establishments at this time. The net result is there will be no restrictions on smoking in smaller restaurants unless the owner wants them.''

The rules require bingo halls, bowling alleys, adult daycare centers, ambulatory surgical centers, birthing centers, malls and shopping centers to be smoke-free unless they offer separately ventilated rooms for smoking.

Hotel and motel lobbies and youth camps must be smoke-free. Indoor workplaces with 15 or more employees will have to be smoke-free, or offer separately ventilated smoking areas. Smoking would be permitted in smaller businesses.

Bob Clift, president of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association, has called the regulations. ``unworkable, repressive and anti-business.''

The prohibitions could be overturned by the state Legislature in 2003.

The Oklahoma chapter of the American Cancer Society supports the regulations.