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FOR RELEASE: August 11, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Oklahoma Health Officials Challenged to Reduce Tobacco Use By 50 Percent

Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) officials plan to aggressively promote strategies to cut the smoking rates among teens and adults by 50 percent within the decade. The announcement today by state officials coincides with the release this week of Surgeon General David Satcher's report, Reducing Tobacco Use.

The report provided in-depth analysis of tobacco use prevention strategies that include educational strategies, management of nicotine addiction, regulatory efforts, economic approaches, and comprehensive programs. One of Satcher's goals is to reduce the smoking rates among teens and adults by half within the decade by fully implementing anti-smoking programs nationally.

“We plan to develop approaches that provide the greatest long-term, population impact to reduce tobacco use,” said OSDH Deputy Commissioner Robert Vincent. “Studies have shown that raising taxes on tobacco decreases tobacco use, especially among adolescents. Another long-term approach would be to use stronger policies and stricter enforcement of fines and penalties for selling tobacco to minors.”

Oklahoma's smoking rate continues to be higher than the national average, and Oklahomans who smoke consume more cigarettes than much of the nation – 111.8 packs per capita compared to 86.9 packs per capita for the United States. In addition, 42 percent of our high school students are currently at risk for lifelong nicotine addiction, a rate considerably higher than the rest of the nation.

“Oklahoma's Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) will be on the front lines working on community tobacco use prevention strategies. SWAT will be conducting activities to expose the truth about the addictiveness of tobacco and how the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed its deadly products to youth,” Vincent said.

The new SWAT Web site is located at www.okswat.com. Local SWAT youth will be creating new ways to reach adolescents with messages that reflect the strategies presented in the report, Reducing Tobacco Use. Some report recommendations include:

  • Implementing effective school-based programs combined with community and media-based activities to prevent or postpone smoking onset in adolescents.
  • Changing physician behavior, medical system procedures and insurance coverage to encourage widespread use of state-of-the-art treatment of nicotine addiction.
  • Passing strong clean indoor air regulations that allow local governments to adopt effective measures to protect their citizens from secondhand smoke.
  • Improving tobacco warning labels to provide more information on ingredients, additives and toxicity of tobacco products.
  • Increasing tobacco prices and excise taxes to help reduce overall tobacco consumption. The recently released Healthy People 2010 report calls for state and federal taxes to average $2.00 for both cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products.
  • Combining community interventions, mass media campaigns, program policies and regulations to reduce the cultural acceptability of tobacco use.

“Total costs for treating tobacco-caused disease in Oklahoma average $300 per person per year in the state, while an effective statewide prevention and cessation program in Oklahoma has been projected to cost about $10 per person per year,” Vincent said. “Clearly, health care professionals hope that most Oklahomans want to make a financial commitment to use the tobacco settlement funds for tobacco use prevention and cessation programs. Supporting the Surgeon General's report would do just that.”

The 2000 State of the State's Health report, released in February by the Oklahoma State Board of Health, recommended the immediate implementation of a statewide, comprehensive, evidence-based tobacco prevention and reduction program. This comprehensive program model, referred to as the “Four Cornerstones,” includes community-based activities, classroom education, counter-marketing media campaigns, and cessation assistance. These program activities, combined with policy initiatives, are the key components of the recommendations in the Surgeon General's report.

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