SOURCE: Int'l Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Assoc.

March 10, 2008 14:35 ET

2003 Oklahoma Ban on Smoking to Expand?

Local Tobacconist Questions Constitutionality

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK--(Marketwire - March 10, 2008) - According to Oklahoma-based members of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, non-smokers and smokers alike compromised their rights in 2003 when they accepted a statewide ban on smoking in most public places.

Since then, businesses such as cigar stores, clubs, bars, nightclubs and hotels continued to be able to choose whether smoking would be allowed in their facilities and restaurants could continue to allow smoking if they created separately ventilated smoking rooms.

Now those locations -- including cigar stores -- are being threatened again to be subjected to the state's smoking ban and "it's time to put a stop to this assault on our personal freedoms," according to state tobacconists like Rachel Northrip of Tobacco Exchange in the French Market Mall, Oklahoma City.

In addition to her work at the Tobacco Exchange, Northrip is currently enrolled at Oklahoma State University. She plans to get her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing and enroll at Oklahoma City University to get her Juris Doctor degree in law.

Northrip believes that government-mandated smoking bans are unconstitutional, in violation of the Ninth Amendment which is part of the Bill of Rights.

"Where does government get the right to ban smoking in private businesses? Certainly not from the Ninth Amendment which argues for the presumption of liberty. Smoking is a legal, adult activity that does not impinge on the welfare of others. If it did, government regulatory agencies like OSHA would step in, but they don't," she said.

Northrip went on to explain that "If smoking in the workplace were an environmental issue dealing with the public welfare, OSHA would be all over it. But they're not, because individual business owners are deciding for themselves whether or not to allow smoking in their places of business," she said.

"This issue is all about choice and economics. The marketplace -- consumers and employees, smokers and non-smokers -- should be allowed to decide if they want to patronize or work for companies that allow or do not allow smoking on their premises."

Northrip added that "Most people think smoking is smoking. But smoking a premium cigar is more like enjoying a glass of fine wine or champagne. It helps make ordinary moments special and special moments extraordinary."

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