Steps are being taken to prohibit smoking on all property owned by the city of Muskogee.

The move was prompted by a request of local health officials who said passage of the ordinance was needed to guarantee eligibility for future grants. The smoking prohibition is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2016.

Delaying implementation will give city administrators time to offer workers smoking cessation education and opportunities. The prohibition also is a negotiable item that must be ratified through the collective bargaining process with the three unions that represent police, firefighters and non-uniform employees.

“We are going to have a long phase-in period, and we are going to have a lot of input from employees,” said Ward I Councilor Lee Ann Langston, who sponsored the amended ordinance. “But at this point, I think it needs to be an educational piece and start getting people some help so this will be less painful for everyone.”

While a consensus was reached regarding the health aspects of the smoking ban on city property, there was some dissent among councilors. Deputy Mayor David Jones, who also represents Ward I, opposed the ban, arguing the need to protect law-abiding citizens from government intrusion.

“I am definitely against smoking, but I am also a strong proponent of individual rights,” Jones said. “I think we are taking more of them away from people, and I think government is doing it, so I am against this.”

Jones expressed concerns that the smoking ban could be just another step toward regulating behavior by passing laws. He envisioned a day when residents would be required to wake up early and “run two miles before they come to work.”

Jones was joined in his opposition by Ward II Councilor Dan Hall, who expressed similar concerns about government interference with lifestyle decisions. Ward IV Councilor Marlon Coleman opposed the measure because of a lack of clarity about how city workers would be impacted.

Other than instituting the smoking ban on city property for which enforcement will begin Jan. 1, 2016, the city’s anti-tobacco ordinance will remain unchanged. The ordinance mirrors state law and what is authorized at the local level.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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