Clock is ticking on smokers

On March 1, 2006 , most restaurants in Oklahoma will become smoke-free in order to comply to public health code 63 O.S. 1-1521. Most public buildings have gone smoke free in compliance with the law, however, restaurants had been given an extension in an effort to allow those choosing to establish smoking areas to comply with stringent rules.

(Exerpted those rules are:)

A. Except as specifically provided in the Smoking in Public Places and Indoor Workplaces Act, no person shall smoke in a public place, in an indoor workplace, in any vehicle providing public transportation, at a meeting of a public body, in a nursing facility licensed pursuant to the Nursing Home Care Act, or in a child care facility licensed pursuant to the Oklahoma Child Care Facilities Licensing Act. A nursing facility licensed pursuant to the Nursing Home Care Act may designate smoking rooms for residents and their guests. Such rooms shall be fully enclosed, directly exhausted to the outside, and shall be under negative air pressure so that no smoke can escape when a door is opened and no air is recirculated to nonsmoking areas of the building.

B. 1. Except as otherwise provided in paragraph 2 of this subsection, an educational facility which offers an early childhood education program or in which children in grades kindergarten through twelve are educated shall prohibit smoking, the use of snuff, chewing tobacco or any other form of tobacco product in the buildings and on the grounds of the facility by all persons including, but not limited to, full-time, part-time, and contract employees, during the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., during the school session, or when class or any program established for students is in session.

2. Career and technology centers may designate smoking areas outside of buildings, away from general traffic areas and completely out of sight of children under eighteen (18) years of age, for use by adults attending training courses, sessions, meetings or seminars.

3. An educational facility may designate smoking areas outside the buildings for the use of adults during certain activities or functions, including, but not limited to, athletic contests.

C. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit educational facilities from having more restrictive policies regarding smoking and the use of other tobacco products in the buildings or on the grounds of the facility.

D. A private residence is not a “public place” within the meaning of the Smoking in Public Places and Indoor Workplaces Act except that areas in a private residence that are used as a licensed child care facility during hours of operation are “public places” within the meaning of the Smoking in Public Places and Indoor Workplaces Act.

E. Smoking is prohibited in all vehicles owned by the State of Oklahoma and all of its agencies and instrumentalities.

F. An employer not otherwise restricted from doing so may elect to provide smoking rooms where no work is performed except for cleaning and maintenance during the time the room is not in use for smoking, provided each smoking room is fully enclosed and exhausted directly to the outside, in such manner that no smoke can drift or circulate into a nonsmoking area. No exhaust from a smoking room shall be located within fifteen (15) feet of any entrance, exit or air intake. If smoking is to be permitted in any space exempted in subsection G of this section or in a smoking room pursuant to subsection H of this section, such smoking space must either occupy the entire enclosed indoor space or, if it shares the enclosed space with any nonsmoking areas, the smoking space shall be fully enclosed, exhausted directly to the outside with no air from the smoking space circulated to any nonsmoking area, and under negative air pressure so that no smoke can drift or circulate into a nonsmoking area when a door to an adjacent nonsmoking area is opened. Air from a smoking room shall not be exhausted within fifteen feet of any entrance, exit or air intake.

G. The Smoking in Public Places and Indoor Workplaces Act shall not prohibit smoking in:

1. Stand-alone bars, stand-alone taverns or cigar bars;

2. The room or rooms where licensed charitable bingo games are being operated, but only during the hours of operation of such games;

3. Up to twenty-five percent of the guest rooms at a hotel or other lodging establishment;

4. Retail tobacco stores predominantly engaged in the sale of tobacco products and accessories and in which the sale of other products is merely incidental and in which no food or beverage is sold or served for consumption on the premises;

5. Workplaces where only the owner or operator of the workplace, or the immediate family of the owner or operator, performs any work in the workplace, and the workplace has only incidental public access;

6. Workplaces occupied exclusively by one or more smokers, if the workplace has only incidental public access. “Incidental public access” means that a place of business has only an occasional person, who is not an employee, present at the business to transact business or make a delivery. It does not include businesses that depend on walk-in customers for any part of their business;

7. Private offices occupied exclusively by one or more smokers;

8. Workplaces within private residences, except that smoking shall not be allowed inside any private residence that is used as a licensed child care facility during hours of operation;

9. A facility operated by a post or organization of past or present members of the Armed Forces of the United States which is exempt from taxation pursuant to Sections 501 (c)(8), 501 (c)(10) or 501 (c)(19) of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C., Section 501 (c)(8), 501 (c)(10) or 501 (c)(19), when such facility is utilized exclusively by its members and their families and for the conduct of poster organization nonprofit operations except during an event or activity which is open to the public;

10. Any outdoor seating area of a restaurant; provided, smoking shall not be allowed within fifteen feet of any exterior public doorway or any air intake of a restaurant; and

11. Medical research or treatment centers, if smoking is integral to the research or treatment.

H. Notwithstanding any other provision of the Smoking in Public Places and Indoor Workplaces Act, until March 1, 2006 , restaurants may have designated smoking and nonsmoking areas or may be designated as being a totally nonsmoking area. Beginning March 1, 2006 , restaurants shall be totally nonsmoking or may provide nonsmoking areas and designated smoking rooms. Food and beverage may be served in such designated smoking rooms which shall be in a location which is fully enclosed, directly exhausted to the outside, under negative air pressure so smoke cannot escape when a door is opened, and no air is recirculated to nonsmoking areas of the building. No exhaust from such room shall be located within twenty-five feet of any entrance, exit or air intake. Such room shall be subject to verification for compliance with the provisions of this subsection by the State Department of Health.

Under these rules, no “Mom and Pop” restaurant can afford to build and support a separate smoking area(s); this includes restaurant/bar combinations such as the now defunct 101 Saloon in Keyes. However, the more pure bars such as the VFW in Boise City and the Hideout in Keyes will not be forced to become smoke-free.

At a minimum the owner/operator of a “public place must do the following:

1. Post signs at the entrances of places where smoking is prohibited.

2. Ask smokers seen to be in violation, to refrain from smoking.

However, if those smokers refuse to heed the request, the owner/operator cannot be held liable for a violation.

However, employees and or administrators of child care and or nursing facilities won't get off so lucky. They will be fined $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second offense within a year and $200 for the third within a year.