- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma’s public schools and off-campus school-sponsored events will be tobacco-free zones under legislation signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Mary Fallin.

Fallin said the measure will prevent children from being exposed to cigarettes and other tobacco products and help reduce tobacco’s influence on kids.

“We have an opportunity to make a real impact on improving Oklahoma’s health,” said Fallin, who challenged state lawmakers to make Oklahoma schools tobacco-free in her State of the State address in February. “Our health holds us back. We want Oklahoma to be a healthier state.”

Fallin signed the measure during a state Capitol ceremony attended by members of Oklahoma’s medical community; some Norman High School students who are members of Students Working Against Tobacco; members of tobacco cessation groups; and Dr. Terry Cline, the state’s health commissioner and secretary of health and human services.

Cline said tobacco use is the No. 1 preventable cause of death in Oklahoma. Annually, 7,500 Oklahoma residents die from illnesses associated with smoking, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer, and tobacco use costs residents $3.7 billion annually in medical expenses and lost productivity.

“We can do something about it. We are doing something about that today,” Cline said. “We’re improving the health of generations to come.”

Oklahoma law already requires public schools to be tobacco-free during the school day, and Fallin said about 83 percent of Oklahoma students already attend schools where tobacco is banned.

The measure signed into law extends that policy to all Oklahoma public schools during non-school hours as well as school vehicles and school-sponsored activities. The bill bans tobacco use in any form, by anyone, at any place and any time on school grounds and during any school sponsored functions held off campus.

The governor said the legislation represents a cultural shift that changes the way people think about their health.

“I am confident that this bill and our continued efforts to stop tobacco use will save thousands of lives that would have otherwise been shortened by the effects of tobacco,” Cline said.

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Online:

House Bill 1685: https://bit.ly/1GLnPiY


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