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FOR RELEASE: May 1 , 2006
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

State Advisory Committee Urges Consideration
of Public Health Benefits of Tobacco Tax Increase

The Oklahoma Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Advisory Committee served notice recently that it discourages any action by state or tribal officials that would result in lowering the price of cigarettes and other tobacco products in Oklahoma.

In a resolution issued by the 20-member advisory committee, members strongly urged that state and tribal leaders should consider all appropriate remedies to address issues related to the proper use of tribal tax stamps that will not include lowering the price of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

This action was in response to several unresolved issues related to the proper use of tribal tax stamps among certain tobacco wholesalers and retailers in northeastern Oklahoma and the resulting broad range of proposals offered by state leaders, tribal leaders, non-tribal retailers, and tribal retailers to address these concerns.

“The good news is that almost every one of these proposals seek to increase tobacco prices at certain stores and help improve Oklahoma’s health,” said Frosty Peak, a business representative on the committee. “We urge our elected officials to reject any proposal that would lower the price of tobacco.”

Committee members noted that the National Institute of Medicine has concluded that the single most direct and reliable method for reducing tobacco consumption is to increase the price of tobacco products. In November 2004, Oklahoma voters did just that by approving an increase in the state’s tobacco tax, which became effective Jan. 1, 2005.

Since the tobacco tax was increased, total cigarette sales (non-tribal and tribal sales combined) have now dropped by 15 percent in the state, or an average of 4.7 million fewer packs per month, according to the latest data from the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

Statewide tobacco use data collected by the Oklahoma State Department of Health indicate that at least 30,000 Oklahoma smokers have quit smoking since 2004, and thousands more are smoking less. Many have sought help by calling Oklahoma’s toll-free tobacco cessation helpline (1-800-QUIT-NOW), where calls increased five-fold after the tax was approved.

The increased tax has also provided new funding totaling more than $116 million directed toward helping meet Oklahoma’s urgent health care needs.

The Oklahoma Legislature created the Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Advisory Committee in 2001 to adopt and periodically review progress towards meeting the objectives of the State Plan for Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation. Members include representatives of the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Oklahoma State Medical Association, Oklahoma Osteopathic Association, Oklahoma Psychological Association, Oklahoma Dental Association, Oklahoma Nurses Association and other organizations.

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