MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

April 30, 2013

Battles rage over tobacco legislation

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Battles over the regulation of tobacco products have played out throughout this year's legislative session, but the real fight could come after lawmakers adjourn.

Gov. Mary Fallin, who announced earlier this session that she wants to push for a statewide vote on an anti-smoking initiative in 2014, plans to begin working in earnest on the details once the session ends, a spokesman said Monday.

"It's definitely still on our radar, and it's still a priority for her," Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said. "I think we're going to have some announcements after session."

Fallin lost a battle earlier this session over a bill she supported that would have allowed cities and towns to enact stricter smoking bans than currently exist in state law. The measure was shot down in a Senate committee, prompting Fallin the following day to announce her plans for a statewide vote in 2014, the same year she is up for re-election.

Despite the governor's announcement in February, few details have emerged on exactly what the measure will look like. Fallin has said the proposal could range from giving cities more authority to put bans in place to a statewide ban on smoking in public places.

Neither of those ideas sits well with Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Edmond, who helped kill the bill to give cities more power to enact smoking bans. Johnson, R-Edmond, argued that business owners should be able to decide for themselves whether to allow smoking inside their establishments.

"We told them, as a state, years ago that if they would build a separate room that is separately ventilated, then they could have smoking in that area," Johnson said. "Now I don't think we as a state should be able to come back and say that cities will be able to override that and have different laws throughout the state."

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