This special session was called because of a crisis in mental health state funding. But instead of focusing on the needs of the ill, the legislature is adding more obstructions for the ill to overcome.
According to a report of the National Institutes of Health, there is a compounded crisis for the mentally ill who have already become addicted and now use nicotine products to self-medicate a serious mental illness. Here's their statement:
"Smokers who are diagnosed with mental health and/or non-nicotine substance abuse disorders are disproportionately affected by tobacco dependence. In North America, five to 10 percent of the population has a diagnosable mental illness. Yet, they carry almost half the burden of Canadian and US tobacco consumption, smoking approximately 40% of all cigarettes consumed."
I help train peace officers and detention officers to better understand the challenges of intervening with the severely mental ill in society. In my years of working with local law enforcement, I hear them over and over complain that the state has left them with no other option than to criminalize mental illness. They admit to locking up psychotic individuals on the pretext of some victim-less crime, just to get them off the street. Rather than the humane environment of a state mental hospital (which are all perpetually full), the suffering individual goes to jail to be further abused by both fellow inmates and the untrained and over-stressed detention officers. Several Oklahomans went to the morgue instead, because some thick-headed cop couldn't fathom that a delusional person might not have the capacity to understand an cop's order.
The state has cut our mental hospitals down to 349 beds (we used to have over 5000). But the Tulsa County Jail alone, has over 500 mentally ill men at any given time. It is costing taxpayers way more to incarcerate and abuse the mentally ill than to get them a short hospital stay and get them stabilized to an outpatient status. Such a waste of money! Such short-sighted lawmakers!
So we go back to shaming the ill person for his smoking habit and punish him. Because that's so much easier than really helping him. this year alone, we cut services to the mentally ill by 23% and we've tried 3 times to massively tax them for a nasty habit.