Bill signed to eliminate smoke-filled rooms

Thursday, April 18th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A bill banning smoking in the Capitol and other state buildings was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Frank Keating, who challenged lawmakers to adopt even stronger anti-smoking legislation.

``I never thought the day would come here at the Capitol where smoke-filled rooms will no longer be smoke filled,'' Keating said to applause at a bill-signing ceremony.

Senate Bill 1553 bars smoking within 25 feet of the Capitol and other state-owned or leased buildings. The new law, however, allows for a smoking room in a building if it has a separate ventilation system.

The bill, which takes effect July 1, allows local governments to adopt similar bans.

``This is a big step in the right direction for a healthier Oklahoma,'' said Sen. Ben Robinson, D-Muskogee, who introduced the legislation. ``It's been a long battle, but well worth the fight. People should be able to live and work in areas that are free from elements that could jeopardize their health, including smoke.''

Rep. Ray Vaughn, R-Edmond, pointed to a recent poll showing public support for a strong smoking ban. He called the Capitol ban ``a very significant step.''

Keating said there is still time left in the session for legislators to pass a stronger bill.

Robinson's bill originally barred smoking in all public places, including restaurants, but was changed after fierce lobbying by tobacco and business interests, including an association that represents restaurants.

Citing the dangers of secondhand smoke, the board that oversees the Health Department adopted a series of tough rules that would ban smoking in restaurants and other public places. But Keating disproved many of those rules, saying they encroached on legislative authority.

Keating said he would work with the health agency on new rules for smoking in public places that reflect the principle of allowing for separately ventilated smoking areas.

He urged lawmakers not to wait on those rules, but to pass legislation this session that will make smoking in public more restrictive.