In 2003 I was diagnosed by the doctors with only thirty-percent of my lungs left. I have COPD/Enphysema as a result of smoking cigarettes. Now I am on oxygen twenty four hours a day seven days a week. I cannot over emphasize the harmful effects of smoking to anyone’s health. I can no longer do the things I once enjoyed doing like taking a long walk or going shopping or attending many events I used to attend.
As the former Mayor of Poteau, I was a member of the Oklahoma Municipal League Board of Directors, an organization which assists municipal officials in better serving their citizens. As mayor I recognized decision making is best done by those closest to the people.
In 1987 and 1994, tobacco industry lobbyists at the Oklahoma State Capitol were successful in advocating for special “preemption” clauses to be placed in state tobacco laws which took away the rights of Oklahoma communities to adopt or enforce any tobacco-related ordinances more stringent than state law. Internal tobacco industry documents show that several Oklahoma communities began in 1986 to adopt ordinances to restrict smoking in public places. Tobacco companies were interested in preventing local action and in controlling all public policy on tobacco issues at the state level.
Tobacco use is Oklahoma’s leading cause of preventable death, costing over 6,000 Oklahoma lives and over $1.1 billion in direct health care costs each year. In LeFlore County alone, $32,511,600 is spent annually in excess health care cost due to tobacco use. Three out of five adult smokers in Oklahoma are making serious attempts to quit. Oklahoma communities need the ability to adopt and enforce local tobacco ordinances as a means of improving the health of their citizens, compete for new businesses and new residents, protect the health of their children, and create a healthier workforce.
Restoring local rights is a legislative priority of the Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan, the State Turning Point Council, the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce and the Oklahoma Municipal League. Also in strong support are dozens of other major organizations including the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, Oklahoma State Medical Association, Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Oklahoma.
The only organizations opposing this measure are tobacco companies or those closely affiliated with the tobacco industry. The ten tobacco lobbyists currently registered by the Oklahoma Ethics Commission represent the interests of the tobacco companies and/or the tobacco trade associations they serve. Internal tobacco industry documents indicate that major tobacco companies have fostered a close relationship with the Oklahoma Restaurant Association (ORA) to gain that respected organization’s assistance in opposing any proposal that would limit smoking in public places.
There is overwhelming scientific evidence that improving the physical health of workers results in better fiscal health for employers. A growing number of Oklahoma communities and local Chambers of Commerce view increased economic development through the creation of a healthier workforce as a vital component to their survival and competitive growth. In Oklahoma, productivity losses resulting from smoking-caused early deaths are estimated to exceed $1.7 billion annually. Reducing tobacco use among workers also generates financial returns from reduced health care costs, increased on-the-job productivity, reduced life and health insurance costs, and reduced absenteeism. A national study based on American Productivity Audit data of the U.S. workforce found that tobacco use was responsible for more lost production time (LPT) than alcohol consumption, family emergencies, or age. Regarding the ability of Oklahoma cities and towns to compete for convention and tourism business, many travelers are coming to expect smokefree hospitality venues as the norm.
The tobacco industry would like to make it appear that local officials closest to the people cannot be trusted to make wise decisions based on input from their electorate. Restoring Local Rights (House Bill 2267) allows elected officials the opportunity to engage in a local dialogue to determine the most appropriate measures to address the health of their communities.
I would like to urge our Oklahoma legislators and the general public to support House Bill 2267 which would RESTORE LOCAL RIGHTS back to our communities.
With Great Concern,