Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Oklahoma Legislation Would Make it a Crime to Smoke Outdoors on a Campus that Has Been Declared Smoke-Free

State legislation being considered in Oklahoma would make it a crime - a misdemeanor - for a person to smoke, even outdoors in a remote location, on a campus that has been declared as smoke-free. It would also be a criminal offense to use smokeless tobacco, which has no effect on the health of others, on such a campus.

Of course, getting completely drunk and risking your own and other people's lives would not be a criminal offense unless you actually cause harm to another person. But put a little chew in your mouth in you have automatically committed a misdemeanor.

The Rest of the Story

Oklahoma legislators who are promoting this bill want the following actions to be considered on equal terms (all would be criminal misdemeanors): petty theft, prostitution, public intoxication, simple assault, disorderly conduct, trespass, vandalism, drug possession, reckless driving, and drinking under the influence of alcohol.

You can't be serious. How Oklahoma legislators think it makes sense to make it a criminal offense for an individual to take an action which endangers no one other than the person taking that action? Every one of the other misdemeanor offenses listed above involves risks or damage to the public. But smoking in remote areas of a campus poses risk only to the person choosing to smoke. The same is true with smokeless tobacco use.

To be consistent, why does the Oklahoma legislature not want to make it a crime to drink alcohol excessively on the campus? In fact, that is a situation where the lives, well-being, or property of other people may indeed be put at risk.

And the ultimate hypocrisy is that the same legislature which is poised to make it a crime to smoke in the remote areas of a campus has no problem with people smoking in a bar where employees may be exposed heavily to tobacco smoke for more than 40 hours per week.

What if a person is using smokeless tobacco for the express purpose of trying to quit smoking? Should that person have a criminal record just because they are using smokeless tobacco on the campus?

What about a person who is being very respectful of nonsmokers by moving to a location away from other people to smoke? Shouldn't we be grateful to that individual for her courtesy rather than make her a criminal?

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