Why don’t Oklahoma communities have the right to decide about clean indoor air?
Unfortunately, tobacco lobbyists managed to insert “preemptive” language into Oklahoma state law in 1987 that stripped communities in Oklahoma of their rights to decide about clean indoor air. Oklahoma is one of only two states that do not allow communities to take any local action related to tobacco beyond the minimum standards established by state law.
How could this have happened in Oklahoma? According to a 2005 report from the University of Oklahoma… “The tobacco industry is a major political force in Oklahoma through lobbying, direct campaign contributions, indirect contributions to the two major political parties and legislative political caucuses, and gifts and entertainment events. The tobacco industry has a centralized political organization in Oklahoma that promotes and defends its political and market interests at the local and state levels of government. Although the tobacco industry has operated in the open in some political campaigns, it has often operated quietly behind the scenes, frequently working with various allied organizations on state and local political campaigns...”
Previously secret internal tobacco industry documents, that were ordered by the courts to be released to the public, help shed light on why tobacco lobbyists wanted to take away local rights on clean indoor air. The documents show that they knew they faced a credibility gap when it came to influencing local decisions. At the local level, policymakers are closer to the people. As a result, they tend to be more responsive to the concerns of constituents and are much less likely to be influenced by tobacco industry lobbyists and their campaign contributions.
“Our record in defeating state smoking restrictions has been reasonably good. Unfortunately, our record with respect to local measures...has been somewhat less encouraging.” - Raymond Pritchard, Brown and Williamson, US Tobacco & Candy Journal, 7/17/86.
“As we expected, the City-County Health Board voted to send its proposed ordinance to the Tulsa City Commission... They did a pretty [expletive deleted] good job of lining up their supporters this time and very few of ours showed up. …I’m not convinced we can get in a ‘good guy—bad guy’ battle and win.” - Letter from Mandell Matheson, R.J Reynolds Tobacco Company, 2/27/87.
“But above all, we intend to resist, at all costs, any attempt by anti-tobacco forces to repeal the state’s preemption of local smoking regulation.” - Memorandum from Stan Bowman, Tobacco Institute, regarding “Oklahoma 1991 Legislative program.” 11/13/90.
“We could never win at the local level…. So the Tobacco Institute and tobacco companies’ first priority has always been to preempt the field…” - Victor L. Crawford, former Tobacco Institute lobbyist, Journal of the American Medical Association, 7/19/95.