Connie Befort, Co-Chair of the Oklahoma Alliance for Health or Tobacco (OAHT) from Oklahoma City came to speak with the Altus committee regarding their efforts toward the Clean Indoor Air Ordinance. "Oklahoma is 49th in the nation as far as health issues," Befort said. "It's just pathetic." The only way for our state is up.
Just because Oklahoma state law is lagging behind doesn't mean that Altus has to follow suit. Michael Bell, Coalition Chair gave a brief update on the progress of the "trifecta" for which Altus has been working. This involves the Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco, the Tobacco Free Parks, and the Clean Indoor Air Ordinances."We've been fighting this battle for three years...I do see this going through." Bell said he really feels even most smokers will want tobacco-free parks for their children. Just as the parents in Duke helped push their "trifecta" of the above tobacco policies through, Altus will too. Duke is joining other communities as they work on their status as a Certified Healthy Community.
Bell has been working with Altus City Attorney, Catherine Coke, in the matter of the ordinances. They are currently waiting on information from the Oklahoma Municipal League (OML).
City Council member, Scot Simco is for Tobacco Free Parks. But he also said that tobacco ordinances are "still about taking more rights away from people. It would be nice if people couldn't cuss and swear around the kids at the T-ball field too." Several members of the committee said "It's not about rights. This is a health issue. People can do what they want at home." Others said they "do not want their children exposed to people drinking alcohol or smoking in the parks." They want their children to see healthy, positive behavior. Bell said, "We are underestimating people who smoke, but support the tobacco free parks ordinance. People know the park is for kids. It's not for adults. This is their world coming up. That's why we brought them (the SWAT team) to the City council meeting to see how things are run."
Western Oklahoma State College (WOSC) is joining Oklahoma State University in a 24/7 tobacco free campus policy. Not due to be put in effect until 2011, WOSC has pushed their policy forward to this August. The Board of Regents passed it by 17-1. Eldorado Schools have gone tobacco free 24/7. Now the only schools in the area without a 24/7 policy are Olustee and Navajo.
Taking an informal survey of businesses in Altus where smoking is still permitted, the committee said that bars and the bingo hall may be the only places left. The people who work in these places are being exposed to second-hand smoke. One member was asked to state the top three diagnoses at Jackson County Memorial Hospital (JCMH) which is totally tobacco free. These diagnoses are: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, pneumonia, and Congestive Heart Failure. All of these disorders are related to tobacco use. Health insurance rates go down when tobacco use decreases. Sadly, for Oklahoma, Simco said, "Smoking is on the rise." But, Simco pointed out that both Italy and France have tobacco free ordinances where people have smoked their whole lives. "If they can do it, everyone else can."