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FOR RELEASE: March 7, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Advisory Council Recommends "Four Cornerstones" to Reduce State's Tobacco Problem

Based on the conclusions of the Oklahoma Tobacco Use Prevention Science Advisory Council, state health officials are recommending the immediate implementation of an evidence-based comprehensive program to reduce tobacco use in the state.

The advisory council, composed of Oklahoma experts from health and science fields, has found that there are four "cornerstones," or essential elements, of a successful state tobacco reduction program. They include community-based initiatives; classroom education programs; a counter-marketing media campaign; and cessation assistance.

"After conducting an extensive review of the science, the council unanimously concluded that evidence from other states' programs and studies on specific program components clearly show that a statewide program using these 'four cornerstones' can effectively reduce tobacco use in Oklahoma," said J.R. Nida, commissioner of health.

The council's findings correspond closely with a national report released in February by the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine (IOM). The IOM report found that the best evidence for the effectiveness of state tobacco reduction programs comes from comparing states with various levels of activity.

States with extensive tobacco reduction programs that include similar elements as the "four cornerstones" concept are Florida, California, and Massachusetts, and each has dramatically decreased tobacco use. Florida smoking rates were reduced among middle school students by 54 percent and in high school students by 24 percent in the first two years of implementation. Since 1990, California has reduced overall consumption rates by 40 percent. Since 1993, Massachusetts reduced overall consumption by 31 percent and smoking during pregnancy by 48 percent.

The IOM report cited a dose-response effect among successful state tobacco reduction programs, with more aggressive efforts and higher funding levels leading to greater reductions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that between $21.8 million and $56.3 million per year will be needed for an effective program in Oklahoma.

"Implementing an effective prevention and cessation program will require only a fraction of the health and economic costs that result from tobacco use in our state," said Nida. "There is simply no better investment that Oklahoma can make to save lives and improve the quality of all our lives, especially those of our children."

Through the "four cornerstones" approach, citizens throughout the state would design and implement local activities using community-based initiatives. Youth would become leaders in efforts to reduce teenage addiction and local law enforcement would assist statewide efforts to help reduce illegal tobacco to minors. Tobacco prevention programs would be extended in the classroom. To be most effective, these school-based programs would be tailored to fit local needs as determined by students, parents, faculty, and local school boards. A coordinated statewide media campaign, including messages selected or designed by Oklahoma youth, would also be implemented to enhance and reinforce community and classroom activities. To reduce the health consequences of tobacco use, cessation assistance programs would be offered in health care settings, schools, and worksites. In addition, a toll-free "quitline" would help ensure easy access to assessment, counseling, and self-help materials.

The Oklahoma Tobacco Use Prevention Science Advisory Council was created in July 1999 to review and recommend to the Commissioner of Health the best science on the nature of tobacco addiction, its health effects and its prevention or treatment. Members of the council are Dr. Ed Brandt, Regents' Professor, University of Oklahoma College of Public Health; Dr. Frank Collins, Professor of Psychology and Director of Clinical Training, Oklahoma State University; Dr. Lawrence Fechter, Director, University of Oklahoma Center for Toxicology; Dr. Elisa T. Lee, Dean, University of Oklahoma College of Public Health; Dr. Robert McCaffree, Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Section, University of Oklahoma College of Medicine; and Dr. Joshua Wiener, Chairman, Oklahoma State University Department of Marketing.

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