Big Business vs. Public Health: indoor smoking regulations

Lab5_sweet smell of smoke victory

Source: MacLeod Cartoons. Accessed 6 Mar 2013 at

In a tragic defeat for public health and a victory for corporate enterprise, an Oklahoma Senate committee recently defeated a measure, Senate Bill 36, designed to give local municipalities the power to adopt their own ordinances against smoking in public places and, in contrast to existing Oklahoma statutes, to make those ordinances more restrictive than state laws.  Opponents to the bill warned of harms to businesses if the legislation had passed.  This argument has no credible scientific backing, and companies wishing to safeguard their profits should embrace, not resist, tighter smoking controls.

Common fears of business leaders included the loss of smoking customers and the difficulties in complying with sundry community smoking rules instead of the present, uniform, statewide law.  However, the 2006 U.S. Surgeon General’s report conducted an extensive literature review and found no evidence of business profit losses following adoption of local smoking regulations, even when such ordinances were nonuniform across a region.  The report also noted that overhead might decrease as employees’ healthcare costs and fire insurance premiums fall.

In Oklahoma, specifically, recent poll data suggests that for restaurants smoking restrictions might boost sales.  More than 70% of respondents, in response to indoor smoking bans, would dine out at least as often as they presently do, and 18% would dine more often.

Lab5_poll pic

Source: Bill Shapard, of “Oklahomans on Smokefree Issues.” Accessed 6 Mar 2013 at

The spirit of SB 36 will undoubtedly rise again in future legislative sessions, and Oklahoma business leaders, if for no reason other than to bolster their profit margins, should support local control over smoking laws.


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One Response to “Big Business vs. Public Health: indoor smoking regulations”

  1. coreykest Says:

    Thanks for sharing. What do you think needs to change for such a bill to be accepted if it is proposed again? Do you think a campaign to educate business leaders on the ease of compliance/ reassurance that they will maintain business is important? Or do you think there just needs to be a change in officeholders? Probably a mixture of both, but I am interested to hear what you think.

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