Bills Filed in Okla. to Reduce Smoking, Protect Minors From Smoke

January 24, 2008

Oklahoma legislators seem to have smoking on their minds. Recently filed bills aimed at smoking issues would require the sales of “fire safe” cigarettes, require insurance companies to provide coverage for smoking cessation programs, and make it illegal to smoke in a car carrying minors.

State Rep. Mike Shelton filed the legislation to require insurance companies to provide coverage for smoking cessation programs, saying that smokers often have to have cancer before an insurance company will pay for treatment.

“Our insurance companies are being penny wise and pound foolish,” said Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, in a statement announcing the filing of the bill. “It’s ridiculous to refuse coverage for treatments that can prevent cancer in the long run and save lives at the same time.”

House Bill 2868 would require insurance companies to provide coverage for “supplies, medication, and related services used as an aide in the cessation of smoking when recommended or prescribed by a physician or other licensed health care provider.”

“Asking someone to simply stop smoking without help is absurd,” Shelton said. “It’s not that easy. Nicotine is a very addictive drug and many people cannot quit relying on willpower alone.”

In 2004, Oklahoma had the third-highest rate of smoking prevalence among the 50 states (26.1 percent of the adult population), according to federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If the state is every going to improve that number, officials must aggressively support smoking cessation efforts, Shelton said.

Shelton noted that the state smoking cessation hotline has received roughly 17,000 calls in the last year, indicating a growing demand for smoking cessation aid.

State Rep. Ken Luttrell’s bill making it illegal to smoke in a car carrying minors is aimed at protecting children from the harmful effects of smoking, according to the lawmaker.

“I feel we have an obligation to protect our children,” said Luttrell, D-Ponca City. “You wouldn’t drink and then drive a car with children in it, so why would you want to expose your children to concentrated smoke? Who will protect children if their parents won’t?”

House Bill 2589, by Luttrell, would make it illegal to smoke while driving if minors are present in a vehicle. Violations would result in a fine of up to $100.

The bill would also make it illegal to seat minors in a smoking room at a restaurant or other facility.

Luttrell noted that a recent test conducted in California showed how quickly chemicals accumulate in a car when someone smokes inside it. The test showed that air quality became toxic – up to 30 times the hazardous level set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The test found that cracking a window while smoking made little difference.

This research shows because children’s bodies are still developing, they are more susceptible to the effects of second-hand smoke. Children exposed to cigarette smoke can develop asthma, bronchitis and ear infections.

Luttrell’s legislation is based on laws approved in Arkansas, California and Louisiana. Up to 16 states are expected to consider similar legislation this year, he said.

The bill was also requested by the Northern Oklahoma Association of Mayors.

As previously reported on, state Rep. Joe Dorman has filed a bill that would make Oklahoma the 31st state to require cigarettes sold within the state to be so-called “fire-safe cigarettes,” which are also known as fire-standards-compliant cigarettes. If passed, cigarettes sold in Oklahoma would have to be made from fire-safe materials that automatically extinguish if left unattended.

Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives

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