Bill calls for $1 tax hike on cigarettes
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma would levy a $1.23-per-pack tax on cigarettes under a bill filed Wednesday by Rep. Ray Vaughn, R- Edmond.
The state currently taxes cigarettes at 23 cents per pack.
"The revenue would raise about $185.7 million," Vaughn said. "For the first eight years, that revenue would be earmarked; 10 percent to fund the state tobacco prevention and cessation plan that has been proposed. The other 90 percent would go for medical care."
Vaughn and Sen. Ben Robinson, D-Muskogee, will author this measure and two others that would establish an indoor workplace clean-air law.
"Basically, it would prohibit smoking in all indoor workplaces throughout the state," Vaughn said. "There would be a few exceptions to that that are set forth in the bill."
Some of those exceptions include stand-alone bars and taverns, bingo parlors during hours of operation, as much as 25 percent of hotel guest rooms, tobacco stores, family and sole-proprietor workplaces and private offices with only incidental public access, nonchild-care workplaces in private homes and medical research or treatment centers, if smoking is integral to the research or treatment.
Smoking would be prohibited within 15 feet of building entrances, exits and air intakes, as well.
"We still have between 300,000 and 400,000 employees that are subjected to secondhand smoke in their workplaces," Vaughn noted.
He said his bill would still permit workers to smoke in separately ventilated places.
One version of the workplace law would be constitutional and would require a vote of the people, as would the tax increase. The other would establish the clean-air law as a statute.
"It doesn't require a vote of the people," Vaughn said. "Hopes would be that the Legislature would just step up and pass it and not have to send it to a vote."
A fourth bill will be authored by Vaughn and Sen. Penny Williams, D-Tulsa.
"We're strengthening enforcement through the youth-access laws that we have in Oklahoma," Vaughn said.
"The crux of that bill would be that if a tobacco retailer sold tobacco products to a child, and on the third offense within a two- year period, they would have their license suspended for a period of 30 days.
"If they did it again subsequently within that same two-year period, their license would be up for suspension for 60 days. This would be a substantial penalty for a retailer."
There is another reason to enforce laws against sales to children, he added.
"We stand to lose $7 million in federal funding if we don't enforce our tobacco sales laws with regard to minors," Vaughn said.
The Legislature last year banned smoking in the state Capitol and other public buildings but balked at more sweeping legislation that would have banned smoking in most public places.
The state Board of Health adopted administrative rules to limit smoking in restaurants and other businesses, but those rules were challenged in court by restaurateurs.