Oklahoma cigar-smoker's smoke-free guide grows

Monday, November 29th 2004, 11:07 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Jerry Lee Tyner, a self-described former "stinkin' cigar smoker," has seen his electronic smoke-free dining guide grow to more than 400 restaurants.

State law requires Oklahoma restaurants to go smoke-free, or provide separately ventilated smoking rooms, by March 1, 2006, but many are falling in line early, much to the delight of the 66-year-old retired automotive parts salesman.

"Smoking irritates me terribly. It's more than an annoyance," Tyner said. "I should be able to go out in public, find a good restaurant and not be bothered by secondhand smoke."

Tyner started the smoke-free guide in the late '90s to help himself, relatives and others make prudent eating-out decisions. His guide started with only a few eateries -- and it quickly expanded.

These days, people e-mail him the names of restaurants that have adopted a smoke-free policy.

"There are people who are worse off than me medically -- like asthmatics -- and secondhand smoke irritates them even more than me," Tyner said.

Tyner said he doesn't consider himself a big-time crusader, and he isn't against smokers -- just their tobacco habit in Oklahoma eating establishments.

"Three of my best friends are smokers" he said.

He also said he's not anti-business -- just the opposite. A visit to a restaurant with a smoking section and a smoke-free side confirmed Tyner's belief that establishments would do better business by prohibiting smoking.

"There were so many people standing around waiting for a table in the smoke-free side. They were stacked like sardines in the smoke-free side. It was almost comical to think the owner could not see the waste of square footage on a few smokers," he said.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Crutcher said people interested in dining out without being subjected to secondhand smoke should talk to restaurant owners and managers.

Indoor smoking laws that took effect Sept. 1, 2003, required smoke-free environments in most working places. Restaurants were given an exemption until March 1, 2006.

"Public support appears to be stronger than ever for these new laws, which provide for smoke-free environments inside most workplaces and public places and in public transportation," Crutcher said.

Smoke-free restaurant guide: www.smokinghurts.com