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City officials eye possible tobacco restriction

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LAWTON, Okla._ City officials in Lawton are expected to consider a ban on all smoking on city property.

Tightening restrictions on tobacco use could bring in up to $150,000 in grant money to be used for healthy living initiatives citywide. It's all part of the Oklahoma Certified Healthy Community program; the healthier a community becomes, the more grant money available.

The city has already been awarded $15,000 for their efforts, including the start up of a farmer's market, but with further restrictions comes more grant money.

"We're the first generation where the life expectancy of our children is lower than that of ourselves," says Richard Rogalski, city planner for the City of Lawton, who says the statistics are startling. "Lawton wants to be a healthy community."   

The program gives communities a checklist of things to improve upon, from installing new walkways to implementing smoking bans. The city council voted last week to prohibit city events from being sponsored by alcohol and tobacco companies.

Kyle Rogers, program coordinator with Fit Kids of Southwest Oklahoma, says it's all about changing our culture for the children.

"It will show kids and as they grow up (and then) they maybe will have that inclination to lead healthy lives," says Rogers.

A smoking ban on all city property would be "the next step" in improving the health of our community, says Rogalski. It's a ban many agree with, but Rogalski knows the opposition is strong as well.

"Second hand smoke is bad," says Sheryl Dean, of Lawton. "Here we are trying to be healthy and inhaling that is just going to diminish what we're trying to do."

If a smoking ban is approved it could help bring in $60,000 very soon and put the city on track to bring in even more money down the road. Money in the past has been used to light up the walkway at Elmer Thomas Park.

"It would be a significant change," says Rogalski. "It could be a significant benefit to the community … or it could be some assailant upon our rights."

The city council has not said if they will take this issue up at their next meeting, but, until the city passes the tobacco restriction they will be unable to apply for any of the available grant money. 

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