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Kris Steele and the Oklahoma smoking ban

There are very few things that will get any red-blooded American riled up quicker than threatening to take away their rights. That’s one reason why any assault on the 2nd Amendment is met with quick and decisive rejection by most Americans. We don’t like to be threatened by anyone, much less our own government. That is why I have a problem when I see our government, be it federal or state, going afterSmoking Ban the right of Americans to engage in activities that are legal. So it is in the case of smoking, so let me see if I can get everyone’s brain cells working early on this Friday morning. (This one’s for you, Laurie.)

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For the record, I have smoked only two or three cigarettes in my lifetime. The main reason I didn’t smoke any more than that was a near miss in being caught by a fellow by the name of Avis Jackson, aka my Dad. I’ll be honest, I lied my way out of a whipping, although I have always suspected he knew the truth and decided to have mercy on me. His words and his attitude towards me smoking put the fear of God and Avis Jackson into me and any desire I had to look cool with a cigarette in my hand was gone with the wind.

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All of that to say I do not smoke and honestly believe it to be a very nasty habit. I mean that as no affront or insult to any of you who may smoke, it’s just the way I feel about the issue. Having said that, I fail to see how I have a right to tell you that you can not engage in said habit. The last time I checked, tobacco was legal and your body is still your body. As long as you don’t force your habit on me, we’re good. There is debatable evidence that suggests 2nd-hand smoke is a danger to those of us who do not smoke, but who knows what the real story is there. A lot of variables are involved, so it may be very hard to tell what the truth really is.

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Kris SteeleAs it stands right now, Oklahoma state law says that you can not smoke at work, if it is an indoor workplace. Smoking is allowed in other public places, including bars and clubs. State law also says that cities can not enact stricter smoking bans than the state has enacted. Oklahoma House Speaker-elect Kris Steele has decided that he wants to change that. He plans to introduce legislation that will repeal the law that prevents cities from enacting their own, stricter tobacco use laws. If his legislation passes, then cities will be allowed to enact as strict of a ban as they want. That could be used as a recipe for abuse.

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I have a question that may seem simpleminded, but bears an answer, I think. What is wrong with the owner of the property deciding if they want to allow smoking or not? Most of the restaurants I visit have two different areas for their customers, smoking and non-smoking. That seems to work for the overwhelming majority of those customers and for the business owner. Reporter 37 has a post on this that I want to quote, as he says it much better than can I.

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What if we let each property owner decide whether people get to light up, dip, chew or line their shoes with tobacco on their property? The state government could make every inch of state property smoke free while the city council in Miami could allow cigars and pipes in the mayor’s office if they see fit. The manager of the Denny’s in MacAlester could allow smoking in his dining area while the owner of the Waffle House in Durant could declare his restaurant a smoke-free zone.

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I know it’s not the lockstep uniformity that Steele and the do-gooders want, but freedom is like that. Sometimes you have to let people live their lives as they choose.

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I have already stated what current Oklahoma law says about smoking. I think it strikes a good balance between allowing personal freedom and liberty and protecting those of us who do not smoke from possible harm from 2nd-hand smoke. With all of the issues facing our state, such as budget shortfalls, economic growth, and jobs creation, why do we need to spend any time whatsoever on making it easier for cities to restrict the personal liberties and freedoms of our citizens? Personally, I think Kris Steele and anyone else who would jump on this bandwagon of doing good need to get their priorities straight. This is not what we elected them to do.

About LD Jackson

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LD Jackson has written 2053 posts in this blog.

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Founder and author of the political and news commentary blog Political Realities. I have always loved to write, but never have I felt my writing was more important than in this present day. If I have changed one mind or impressed one American about the direction our country is headed, then I will consider my endeavors a success. I take the tag line on this blog very seriously. Above all else, in search of the truth.

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  • Apparently it’s not just the 111th Congress that has their priorities screwed-up. (see my latest post).

    Larry, I just don’t understand how the minds of politicians work. The country is going down the proverbial toilet and all Kris Steel can focus on is stricter smoking controls? Do these people not live in the real world? What does it take to get politicians to focus on what is most important? If you know, please share your knowledge. If these people were on a sinking ship, they would be worried about what time tea was going to be served. Aggggh!

    • Yeah, that’s exactly what I was wondering. There are much more important things for Steele to be looking at.

  • Mike

    I don’t see a big problem with allowing cities and towns to enact their own restrictions that are tougher than state law. It’s common around here for towns to be dry and I don’t see that it creates a problem so why not a no smoking ban at the local level?

    Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with your solution Larry — leave to individual business owners to determine their own rules and make sure employees and customers alike are aware of any restrictions. I’m happy with smoking and non-smoking areas though I admit I’d probably avoid those restaurants altogether because the smell of smoke ruins my meal. And I’d definitely avoid any restaurant that allowed pipe or cigar smoking. But that’s the owners problem to deal with and he can make a decision that’s best for him.

    • My real problem with this lies in the fact that Kris Steele is even considering taking up the issue. We have much more important things to take care of, as I pointed out in the post.

      As for cities and towns enacting stricter smoking restrictions, so be it, as long as that is what the people want. One article I read while doing research for my post quoted an Oklahoma City councilman as saying he would be glad to look at the possibility, but that it would ultimately fall to the people to decide.

    • Laurie

      Letting individual business owners decide their smoking policies works in some places, not in others. Nevada? You’ll find smoke-free casinos next to old-time lounges that almost require it to get the “whole” experience and everything in between. The laws are purposefully loose.

      Oregon and a couple of other West Coast states? All smoking in enclosed areas in any workplace (including bars and restaurants) is banned, according to the Oregon Indoor Clean Act. When this was written, bar/nightclub owners especially wanted an exemption, arguing that smoking and drinking are a linked experience for many. These groups argued that the individual business (and even city) should be able to adopt their own policies. After all, nobody is forced to go into a bar with smoking, right?

      But the law is clear; It protects the rights of all employees to a smoke free workplace, regardless of the type of business. The law stood, all smoking in public enclosed spaces was banned, and the bar/restaurant/nighclub owners predicted the end of their industry with hyperbole that was sort of funny, especially soon after the debate was over. Many establishments built “smoking patios” for their patrons (well-ventilated, away from the main floor), and guess what? Business actually increased for these folks. Turns out even SMOKERS prefer that the interior of their bars and restaurants be free of smoke and the smell, as long as they have a relaxed and comfortable location to smoke if they feel like it.

      In the end, a standardized law protects all employees equally while allowing flexibility to business who wish to allow smoking. Especially in times of economic harship, people who like to eat can’t always choose where they work or go find another job if the environment is unhealthy for them.

    • Laurie

      Pressure to think on a Friday, huh Larry? 🙂

      I’ve already posted in response to Mike that gives at least a Northwest-centric view of why standardization is necessary. I would add that the beginning of the smoke-free workplace coincided with the implementation of the Oregon Health Plan, a low cost and sometimes-susidized health insurance alternative for low-income workers. I think that the indoor clean air laws were seen as a necessity. Protecting the health of the public (and the eventual costs of treatment for smoking/secondhand smoke related illnesses) became a priority borne out of this health care initiative.

      One of the things that conservatives have swung for is to have states more involved in programs like the OHP. I wonder if your state is getting ready for the possible eventuality that some of the Obama plan will be rolled back to give states more responsibility to create their own programs? I expect these sorts of public health laws to increase over the next year as more states anticipate this possiblity. A thought, anyway.

      • Hey, I have to do something to keep everyone awake around here.

        I appreciate the comments and the insight into how the Oregon area has dealt with this situation. At the very least, it is food for thought.

  • Joe Giusto

    I sympathize with what you say, BUT, sometimes government is necessary to protect us against ourselves and to look at eventual costs to the taxpayer,…you and me.
    Seat belts protect us, non-smoking protects us and in an enormous number of cases, the healthcare costs of those injured…by smoke…or by accidents, is really borne by the taxpayer. Please try to get the message of what I am saying.

    • Thanks for your comment, Joe. I totally get what you are saying. I don’t have a problem with the government putting restrictions on things like smoking, for one simple reason. Even though it is the right of the individual to smoke or not, as they choose, smoking does affect other people. Those other people have a right to be free of that smoke, just as smokers have the right to smoke. In situations like that, it only makes sense that the government should be able to step in and enact such restrictions as are necessary. However, in this time of economic turmoil and uncertainty, that is not the primary job we elected our government to do. I just think they should be setting different priorities.

    • Ted King


      Soon it will be the banning of all-you-can-eat buffets to combat obesity. When that happens, and it will, I hope you will reconsider your reasoning.


  • What is wrong with the owner of the property deciding if they want to allow smoking or not?

    Most people think that second hand smoke doesn’t do harm but that isn’t true. I can tell you first hand, that I am severely affected every time I just stand next to someone who has cigarette smoke on their clothes, let alone are smoking in my space. For me, it has become life threatening. One severe reaction and I could die. And I’m not the only one with Reactive Airway Disease or other lung and breathing issues.

    People do have the right to do as they please but when their right puts my life in jeopardy, what am I suppose to do? I am now at a point where I can no longer go outside without a mask. I can no longer eat out. I can no longer go anywhere I might have to remove my mask. That isn’t fair to me.

    But I can handle the change I have to endure because of the chemical poisoning. What I struggle with is why do I have to constantly walk through a smoking haze, or live in a building where smoking is happening in the next apartment, when it is a life threatening issue for me.

    This might be a bad analogy – and I apologize up front if it is – but it is similar to a pedophile living next door. If you have children you don’t want him there because of the potential danger he could be. No proof that he will be for sure but a good possibility that he might.

    While smoke and pedophiles are not in the same ball park, my point is this. Smoking IS indeed life threatening for other citizens. The question for me is why does their right to smoke trump my right to breathe or to live?

    • I hope you didn’t think that I was questioning if 2nd hand smoke was a danger to the people that were around it. It might not bother me, but you aren’t the only person who I know that is hyper-sensitive to cigarette smoke. I work with two people who are and they can not stand being around it. It literally makes them sick to their stomach.

      In answer to your last question, I don’t think anyone’s right to smoke should trump your right to breathe or live and anyone who says differently is sadly mistaken.

    • Ted King


      Then for you an absolute prohibition on smoking is in order. We should then make it illegal to smoke on the sidewalk or in public parks just to keep you safe. We should make smoking inside or outside the home illegal as well just in case a whiff comes to your noise and produces a “life threatening” situation. Also, people in cars should not be allowed to smoke just in case they are waiting next to you for the traffic light to change.

      • Although I can’t speak for Dominique, I don’t think that is what she is saying at all. I know what kind of trouble she has been having with her breathing, so she has a legitimate concern when it comes to 2nd hand smoke. Should we not do what we can to accommodate someone with problems such as her?

      • Since I don’t know you, I’m going to assume your comment was not meant to be mean or cold-hearted. To be quite frank, for the first time in my life, I think smoking should be outlawed. And here is why. We in America have the right to engage in anything we like except if it has a negative impact on someone else. That is one of the reasons you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater because it puts others in danger. So is the case with smoking. A smoker cannot, not negatively impact another person when they smoke. We know that cigarettes are carcinogenic and do serious physical damage. Smoking also does structural damage to buildings as well. So, in response to your comment, yes, I think we should consider not allowing smoking at all.

        I personally know of a man who lost most of one of his lungs due to second-hand smoke and he never smoked a day in his life. He would get upset because no matter where he went restaurant wise (this was in the early to mid 90s), he would end up within the reach of smokers.

        I also know in the last apartment complex I lived in that they had a tenant who has smoked in his apartment for years. When he left, they had to completely gut the place because of the damage from the smoke. It had seeped into the carpet, the walls, everything. Again, the owner of the building, through no fault of his own, now has the negative impact of costly repairs.

        In addition, if cigarette smoke does that in a building, what the heck do you think it does to those who smoke and don’t smoke?

        In America, one individual’s right is always tempered when that right negatively impacts others.

        I’m sorry if that pisses you off. But as I stated before, I have the right to breath clean air. I didn’t cause the lung problems I have. It was done to me. Now I have to be guarded against chemicals like cigarettes whether I want to or not.

        Just so you know, since you don’t know me, I am NOT for new laws, or banning anything. I think the government/state should stay out of our private business. However, when it comes to smoking, we don’t seem to be able to find a middle ground here. Mainly, because many smokers won’t adhere to the boundaries that are put in place. For instance, in my last apartment complex, smokers were allowed to smoke in their own homes, however, if complaints arose from other tenants in the building to the smoke penetrating their homes, the smoker was required to get one of those machines that take the smoke out of the air, or leave. Almost all of the smokers chose to leave instead.

        Another example. At the VA, smokers are not permitted at any of the entryways. Yet every time I go for an appointment, I have to walk through a crowd of smokers and a cloud of smoke. Again, here is a boundary to help both sides and yet one side refuses to adhere to it.

        Smoking is a serious problem and has life threatening consequences – not to just me – but to anyone – healthy or not. And to act like those of us on the no smoking side are jerks is just unfair, to say the least.

  • In California, there is no smoking at all inside any facility, including restaurants, bars or clubs. What has happened is all patrons end up running a gauntlet of smokers at the front door. It almost defeats the purpose of the law.

    • That doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, does it. You would think it would be better to have such buildings with smoking and non-smoking sections. Best of both worlds?

    • Exactly!

  • Smoking in bars and restaurants has been banned in Massachusetts for years, and just a few years ago New Hampshire banned it as well. At the time that New Hampshire imposed its ban, 75% of the bars and restaurants had already willingly banned smoking. This means that non-smokers had the choice of which establisments they chose to give their business to, if they were so offended by smoke they could go to the vast majority of establishments in the state and not have to worry about it, while the options for smokers were much more limited. There seemed to be no need for the smoking ban in New Hampshire. I believe that the private business owner should be able to decide on their own whether or not to allow smoking in the establishments. People who do not like the smoke had many options, but the legislature has taken the option away from the smokers.

    • It’s strange that they would do that, Steve. I would think it makes more sense to allow the private business owner to make that choice for themselves.

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  • Ted King


    The idea that anyone in Oklahoma will have to work in a smoking environment just to have a job is laughable. About 99% of Oklahoma workplaces are nonsmoking anyway. Most of the people who work in those environments are smokers themselves. Restaurants that have smoking rooms have wait staffs that come in and out of those smoking rooms and do not linger there. BTW, if Kris Steele has his way casinos will be exempt. Aren’t casino workers people too?

    • I’m guessing the casinos are exempt because they fall under control of the Indian nation (can’t think of the right name).

  • dale

    this is crazy, at my local bar there are 2 people inside and 18 on the patio smoking and freezing.

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