‘Let local people decide’
Patrick went on to establish the Foundation for a Smoke-Free America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating people about smoking and tobacco. He has also testified before Congress, as well as state lawmakers, on a variety of tobacco-related issues.
Patrick said 29 states have outlawed smoking in public places, but Oklahoma has not. He added that Oklahoma allows smoking in all bars and restaurants, but communities cannot pass their own smoking laws.
Patrick said anti-smoking advocates recently asked the Legislature to allow cities to ban indoor smoking, but lawmakers rejected the measure.
“We need to return power to the local communities,” he said. “That’s what America’s all about — let local people decide what they want. That’s why we have states’ rights, and we need to get that power back in the hands of our local communities.”
Patrick also complained that tobacco companies are using deceptive advertising to convince people — especially children — to try their products. As he spoke, several tobacco ads aimed at children appeared on an overhead screen.
He countered those ads with parodies of Joe Camel, a cartoon figure that served as the mascot for Camel cigarettes from 1987 through 1997. Another, more serious ad showed several children denouncing the tobacco industry’s promotional tactics.
Patrick said he would rather address a group of middle school or high school students, because they haven’t decided yet whether they will take up smoking. He added that most college students have already made that decision.
Patrick said when he talks to younger students, he appeals to their emotions instead of talking about the politics of smoking.
“If I stood in front of the audience and said, ‘Tobacco is bad for you, and 29 states have now banned smoking in all bars and restaurants,’ you’ll go to sleep,” he said. “If I connect with your heart from my anger, from my sadness, from my love, my fear ... If I connect from my heart with you, you will hear what I have to say.”