Sean Marsee was from Ada, Oklahoma. Before his death and the world knew him through his mother Betty’s lawsuit against the tobacco industry or his doctor’s appearance on 60 Minutes, Sean was known as a track star at Talihina High School. He had won 28 track medals and was given the “Most Valuable Athlete” award. It is the same award that he held for his last picture before he died the next day. Those who knew him said that he was so frail and his head so swollen and full of drainage tubes that it was difficult if not impossible for him to hold up his head and pose for his picture. He wanted to have the picture taken to show other kids what could happen if they chose to use snuff or dip. He picked up the deadly habit at age 12 after getting free samples of Copenhagen and Skoal. Sean died at age 19 in 1985, the same year that I graduated from High School in Oklahoma City.
I had not heard his name or thought of Sean Marsee in a long time, I’m ashamed to say, until Dr. Rodu responded to a question during an October 3, 2012 Interim Study at the State Capitol in OKC. In town to present tobacco industry research, Dr. Rodu’s response was apparently intended to cast doubt on whether Sean’s cancer was a result of snuff usage.
Also speaking at the October 3rd Interim Study was former Indiana Congressman Steve Buyer. His travel expenses were funded by the tobacco industry.
When Steve Buyer talks about wanting to “help change public health,” we (Oklahomans) should be very, very concerned. When Dr. Rodu tries to tell us that his research shows “snus [products] are very affordable” and that “smokers save money” when using these products to help them quit smoking, we need to remember why Sean Marsee STILL matters.
Betty Marsee lost her two lawsuits against the tobacco industry. All she was able to achieve were the warning labels that are currently on smokeless tobacco products. If these two guys, Rodu and Buyer, have it their way, they’d have those warnings removed or weakened.
The tobacco industry and their lobbyists are still working to influence public policy making in Oklahoma. They do not want Oklahoma to restore local rights or for Oklahoma to become smoke-free. They don’t care about the health of workers in Oklahoma who have to work in smoke-filled environments, like musicians. They only want to sell a cheap and legal product – a product when used as intended kills. Now they apparently want to re-write history and cast doubt that Sean Marsee’s cancer was not a direct result of his daily use of snuff since the age of 12.
Last week’s tobacco-industry-funded “Dog and Pony Show” was an attempt to take attention away from our smoke-free efforts. One Oklahoma Senator attending the Interim Study referred to last year’s bill (HB 2267) as the “misguided preemption bill” while another Senator disputed real science by telling a presenter to “put up or shut up” regarding their facts.
Sean was an athlete. He was not a musician. But he was someone’s son. He was someone’s brother and his story and his mother’s fight against the tobacco industry still matters to this Oklahoman.
I am writing to tell you that I am breaking up. I thought that you said you loved me? Or more like you loved local rights and standing up for governments closest to the people – but that is what made me fall for you and support you when you ran for office. That is what you said when you came to my front door. Remember? You were running for office. You even mentioned it in your campaign materials.
Then, I found out about this letter that you received from someone you have been seeing behind my back. Someone who says “…control of those items that are for the greater good of citizens.” Isn’t returning local rights regarding smoke-free for the greater good?
But I was heartbroken and really rather furious to hear them refer to me as “…whims of local citizenry.” I was hurt. I asked you about it and you told me that, I was not capable of making these kind of decisions and neither were my city council or my mayor.
I’m thinking that Sunday’s Tulsa World is right and that this “love fest” needs to end. 25 years is too long. I WANT local rights returned. Just like you promised me when you ran for office. You can’t have it both ways. You need to choose who elected you or who keeps sending you letters, giving you contributions and taking you to dinner. I mean – they don’t even live in your district.
- Oklahoma Voter
PS – The Tulsa World also published excerpts of other letters:
“Our record in defeating state smoking restrictions has been reasonably good. Unfortunately, our record with respect to local measures…has been somewhat less encouraging.” – Raymond Pritchard, Brown and Williamson, US Tobacco & Candy Journal, July 17, 1986.
“But above all, we intend to resist, at all costs, any attempt by anti-tobacco forces to repeal the state’s preemption of local smoking regulation.” – Memorandum from Stan Bowman, Tobacco Institute, regarding “Oklahoma 1991 Legislative program,” Nov. 18, 1990.
“We could never win at the local level … So the Tobacco Institute and tobacco companies’ first priority has always been to preempt the field…” – Victor L. Crawford, former Tobacco Institute lobbyist, Journal of the American Medical Association, July 19, 1995.
This gentleman didn’t just stumble into the House Public Health Committee yesterday (Tuesday, February 21, 2012). He spoke on behalf of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association against HB2267/Restore Local Rights. But he isn’t JUST representing ORA. He didn’t mention to all of the members of the House Public Health Committee that he is also a registered Tobacco Lobbyist. Because – why would a Tobacco Lobbyist speak at a House Pubic Health Committee?
This gentleman is Benny Vanatta – he is both a registered lobbyist for the ORA and Swisher. But when he speaks against Restoring Local Rights – is he speaking on behalf of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association OR Swisher?
It is common practice for tobacco companies to use both the National Restaurant Association and State Restaurant Associations [like here in Oklahoma] ( in some states – not all. Click here and see map) as a front to work against smoke-free policies.“Since the 1970’s, tobacco companies have worked persistently to influence the policy positions of key hospitality trade associations for the purpose of using these third parties as front groups to undermine smokefree policies. Even though all legitimate economic studies show that smokefree air has no negative impact on business, tobacco industry strategists were successful in both buying off the National Restaurant Association (NRA) and convincing it that smokefree ordinances are bad for business.” - American for Nonsmoker’s Rights
When they say it is bad for business. It isn’t!
When they say communities are not capable of making wise decisions. It isn’t true!
When WE go to the Capitol and when WE speak to our legislators – we go as ourselves.
We use credible facts from ANR and the American Cancer Society.
We have nothing to hide – or another organization to hide behind.
We come as ourselves and will continue to do so until local rights are restored.
Oklahoma’s race to the bottom of bad health is NOT the race I want to win.
Find out how YOU can help. Follow us on facebook and twitter. Call and/or email your legislators and tell them that “You don’t want to get a job someplace else! You want your city to be able to become smoke-free!” Ask them to support HB2267/Restore Local Rights!
And don’t take NO for an answer!
Imagine that this is what you saw when you came into our State? You were a potential business wanting to locate in Oklahoma. A visitor. A band on tour……you get the picture.
We don’t really have this sign, but we might as well! Think that people don’t look at our health statistics (#1 Smokiest City in the Nation is Tulsa. OKC is #6), 48 our of 50, etc? Think again – because they do. We hear about it all of the time.
Oklahoma should have the chance to compete for regional jobs – but we are losing these jobs to neighboring states/cities…..because they are smoke-free. (look for future post on this!)
Oklahoma has some the best/greatest communities to live in. We are surrounded by states and cities that have clean indoor air. Does make you feel like you’ve turned the clock back when you think of it.
In today’s Oklahoman – there was a great letter to the editor with this very title - A firsthand story about secondhand smoke. The letter read as if I had written it. I too grew up in a home with smokers and although a cigarette never touched my lips – I was breathing in all of the chemicals and class A carcinogens as IF I WERE A SMOKER. Now – before some of you start thinking that this is a post against smokers it isn’t. It is against smoking and secondhand smoke.
We live in a different age. We know more. YET – we still behave like we live in the past sometimes and living in the past keeps our health and our State’s health status falling further and further behind.
What also struck me about today’s LTE was that many of the readers and followers of Breathe the Music are like the author. Although they don’t put a cigarette to their mouths – they are breathing in enough secondhand smoke to make them a smoker. As a matter of FACT – a pack in-a-half a day smoker.
What can we do in Oklahoma to help get the smoke OUT of your workplaces…..ALL workplaces? We can restore local rights back to communities in Oklahoma so that they can THEN be able to work towards getting that communities workplaces smoke-free. (passing an ordinance)
Here is information about HB 2267/Restore Local Rights! We hope that you will talk to your State Legislators about this. Ask for them to support it! Then share it with your friends and family and your fellow musicians and music loving friends. You know….the ones who want to come out and support you but can stand the smoke.
We can do this!
HB2267 will be heard in the Public Health Committee NEXT Tuesday – February 21, 2012. HB2267/Restore Local Rights is a similar bill to what we supported last year. This bill, if passed and signed by Governor Fallin, will finally allow cities and towns the right to decide to have smoke-free public places! Like BARS – where most musicians work.
This seems like the long hard way to get OUR workplaces smoke-free – but it is the ONLY way to undo what both the Tobacco Lobbyists (there are 14 registered tobacco lobbyists up at the Oklahoma State Capitol) and the Oklahoma Restaurant Association did in 1987. But we CAN do it!
Check out this letter to the editor from last week’s Oklahoman:
Want to find out how you can help? Contact Paula at: email@example.com!
Until then – Happy Valentine’s Day.
Musicians across the country want their workplaces smoke-free. More and more states and cities are offering a healthy and smoke-free work environment to all employees, including musicians. Check out this great video from our neighbors in Texas.
What makes Texas different from Oklahoma is that they DO have local rights. Cities across Texas can go smoke-free and Austin is a great example! Smoke-Free Texas is currently working towards their state becoming 100% smoke-free.
We have collected several stories, but we are looking for more. It could be you. Share your story with us. Contact Paula at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everybody has the right to breathe smoke-free air, no matter where they work!
Speaker of the House of Representatives Kris Steele’s bill – HB2135/Restore Local Rights – did not come up for a vote on the full House floor on Thursday, March 17th. The 17th was the deadline for the House to clear all bills and send them over to the Senate for consideration. HB2135 is by no means dead, but is likely dormant until next year.
Your calls, emails and communication with Legislators have made a tremendous difference in Musicans for Smoke-free Oklahoma/Breathe the Music’s efforts to restore local rights back to communities so that they can then adopt smoke-free ordinances.
M4SFO/BTM still believes and will continue to fight for every one’s right to breathe smoke-free air NO MATTER WHERE THEY WORK – and that every city needs to have local rights restored so that they can then become 100% smoke-free.
- Sign our statewide “Right to Breathe” petition
- “Like” us on Facebook
- Follow us on Twitter
- Share all of this with your friends, family and other musicians!
Thanks for ALL that you do. Together we can make a difference!
Being in the Top Ten and more importantly being #1 is something that all Oklahomans strive for. We can’t help it. It is best described as a cradle to grave need to be #1. Sometimes #1 will take us quicker to the grave than necessary, especially in relation to smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.
Today a study was released by The Daily Beast naming the top 30 cities with smoking problems. Oklahoma has secured two positions on their list even making their Top Ten out of 30. Tulsa comes in at #1 and Oklahoma City follows at #7. Even with the U.S. smoking rate declining, Oklahoma still finds it hard to quit this deadly habit or even admit that we have a serious problem. Lots of smokers translates into LOTS of secondhand smoke, especially in a musician’s, bartender’s and other employee’s workplaces.
What Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and other cities and towns across Oklahoma don’t have is the ability or right to go smoke-free. Even if Tulsa and Oklahoma City wanted to go smoke-free, currently they can’t pass a smoke-free ordinance. This year all of that could change if a bill that is being introduced this session by Representative Kris Steele gets passed. It will restore local rights back to communities across the state giving them the ability to become smoke-free and that is a start from where we are right now.
When a city becomes smoke-free, it is easier for smokers to quit and more importantly EVERYONE in that city will have a smoke-free workplace. Everybody as the right to breathe smoke-free air, no matter where they work!
What is your New Year’s resolution this year? Restoring local rights and working on getting musician’s (and all Oklahoman’s) workplaces smoke-free is our top resolution. Is it yours? Take time to sign our petition, follow us on facebook and twitter. Get involved and get us out of the one TOP TEN we do NOT want to be in anymore.
Have you been keeping up with all of the recent news in Oklahoma regarding restoring local rights so that cities can choose to become smoke-free? We have! You can find them on our “news article” tab.
We keep hearing the same old arguments about how this will infringe on the “smoker’s” rights. How it will be hard and in some cases impossible to enforce. How it will not allow them to compete with stand-alone bars and casinos. How for a tobacco retailer, it will be hard for them to enforce because they have stores all over the state and it would be difficult and impossible to manage.
None of these things are true. They are based on Big Tobacco lies and feed on fiction and some people’s fear of “losing their rights.”
Currently musicians and other workers do not have the right to breathe smoke-free air in their workplaces and cities have no rights under current Oklahoma law to become smoke-free.
FACT: Voters Want a Smoke-Free Oklahoma
- 68% of voters believe the rights of customers and employees to breathe clean air is more important than the rights of smokers to smoke and owners to allow smoking.
- 59% of Oklahomans SUPPORT a smoke-free environment for Oklahoma workers and families.
- Smoke-free laws will increase business – 18% of those surveyed say they would go out MORE OFTEN if restaurants and bars were smoke-free.
- 94% of Oklahomans believe secondhand smoke is a health hazard – 59% say it is a “serious” health hazard, 22% say it is a “moderate” health hazard, and 13% say it is a “minor” health hazard.
FACT: Secondhand Smoke is a Major Health Hazard in Oklahoma
- There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Approximately 700 deaths in Oklahoma each year are attributable to secondhand smoke exposure, about the same number that are caused by motor vehicle accidents.
- Oklahoma’s “Smoking in Public Places and Indoor Workplaces Act” was broadened in 2003, but it left several broad exemptions or loopholes.
- These loopholes pose a known public health risk for thousands of Oklahoma workers in these places, including many nonsmokers. All visitors to these places also are subject to harmful exposure.
FACT: Smoke-Free Will Save and Protect Oklahoma Workers
- Smoke-free policies are the most economic and effective protection from secondhand smoke exposure – separate areas, air cleaning or ventilation does not eliminate exposure.
- Smoke-free workplace laws immediately and notably improved heart health (including fewer heart attack hospitalizations) particularly in nonsmokers, according to studies in Colorado, Indiana, Montana, New York, Ohio, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Scotland.
FACT: Smoke-Free Will Save Oklahoma Dollars
- Secondhand smoke exposure imposes economic costs on individuals, businesses and society as a whole through direct and indirect medical costs and productivity losses.
- New York’s smoke-free air law led to $56 million savings in direct health care costs in 2004.
- Medical costs and economic losses to nonsmokers suffering from lung cancer or heart disease due to second hand smoke are estimated at nearly $6 billion a year.