Smoking barred in Capitol, other buildings

Thursday, April 11th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A bill banning smoking in the Capitol and other state buildings is one step away from becoming law after final legislative passage in the Senate.

Gov. Frank Keating is expected to sign the measure.

``This sends a message to the public that, at least at the Capitol, we are aware of the problems of secondhand smoke and are trying to keep from inflicting it on as many people as we can,'' said Sen. Ben Robinson, D-Muskogee, author of the bill.

The vote was 33-4 for the measure, which originally would have banned smoking in all public places, including restaurants. That bill was changed after an intense lobbying effort by tobacco and business interests.

The bill passed the House on Tuesday on an 82-14 vote, despite arguments from some lawmakers who questioned studies pointing up the dangers of secondhand smoke.

``I think the science is very good'' to show that secondhand smoke causes illness in non-smokers, Robinson said. ``Tests run in the last eight or nine years have given undeniable evidence that it is harmful to many, if not all individuals, at some level.''

There was no debate before the Senate voted to send the bill to the governor.

Voting against the ban were Sens. Grover Campbell, R-Owasso; Bruce Price, D-Hinton; Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta, and Jerry Smith, R-Tulsa.

The bill bans smoking in state buildings but allows agencies to build designated smoking areas that have separate ventilation systems and are not used to conduct public business.

The measure also bars smoking within 25 feet of a state government building and allows county and municipal governments to enact similar smoking bans. It exempts portions of state lodges.

Currently, lawmakers are permitted to smoke in their offices and Robinson did not foresee that completely changing, despite the new law.

``It bans it, yes. Does it stop it? Probably not,'' he said.

``But I hasten to add that with each restriction that has been placed in this building, the amount of cigarette smoke has dropped considerably,'' Robinson said.

State health experts say secondhand smoke contains more than 40 cancer-causing compounds and is responsible for the deaths of an estimated 750 people in Oklahoma each year primarily from cancer, heart disease and breathing disorders.

The measure is Senate Bill 1553.