House bill would stiffen smoking laws

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OKLAHOMA CITY - It's illegal for Oklahomans to smoke at most restaurants and public places but, now, one Oklahoma legislator wants to take smoking rules to the next level - in line with states like California and New York.

"I think we can change lives with this bill," Rep. Harold Wright said.

The House Republican is the author of House Bill 2288 or the 'Oklahoma Workplace Clean Air Act.'

"It's a bill that will help people cut down on smoking and possibly totally quit smoking as a result of it," said Wright, House Speaker Pro-Temp.

The bill would ban smoking "at public places and recreational areas... all enclosed areas of places of employment and certain facilities and outdoor public places." That means all bars and outdoor patios - also after-hour smoking at day care facilities both child and adult.

"People kinda know what they are getting into when they walk into a cigar shop," said Clyde Percy.

Percy owns 2nd Street Cigars in Edmond. If passed, as is, the bill would prevent customers from smoking cigars in the lounge.

"I really think its uncalled for. As long as you have a designated area and it's cut off to the public, I don't see a problem with it," he said.

Percy said about half his customers smoke on site and it would be a death sentence for popular cigar bars.

"Those places will go out of business, small brick and mortars like this will also go out of business," he said.

Wright said the bill would protect employee health.

"You have employees that work there. Maybe it's the only place they can get a job," Wright said.

"If you wanna be there while there's smoking, get a job there. If not, don't," Percy said.

Wright said the bill would help Oklahoma's poor public health statistics. He sites other states that have already passed similar smoking bans.

"Its gonna happen in Oklahoma. It just kinda depends on how long it takes," Wright said.

"Lets be honest, I can't say anything that it's healthy whatsoever, but there are a lot of other things that they need to be worrying about that are unhealthy," Percy said.

The bill has passed the House health committee.

Wright said there might be provisions made for places like cigar shops and bars before it goes to the floor of the House in the next weeks.

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