Tobacco-Free Oklahoma Week Highlights Real Costs of Tobacco Use
When discussing the impact of tobacco use, Oklahoma’s leading cause of preventable death, the focus often turns to its tragic health effects and loss of life. However, every Oklahoma business and citizen also bears an enormous financial burden. Tobacco-Free Oklahoma Week, January 24 - 30, 2011, highlights these very real burdens that create a drag on economic development in our state.
The Costs of Tobacco Use
On average Oklahoma businesses lose $3,734 each year for every employee that smokes due to increased sick days and disability, higher medical and insurance costs, and shorter, less productive work-lives.
Oklahoma’s annual health care costs caused by smoking are $1.16 billion, including $218 million in Medicaid costs.
Every Oklahoma household on average pays $556 each year in state and federal taxes to cover smoking-caused costs, whether or not they smoke.
“Reducing tobacco use and making a commitment to better health must be a top priority for all Oklahomans if our state is to be economically successful” said Tracey Strader, executive director of the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET). “Existing and prospective employers closely examine health care costs when considering expansion and relocation. A healthy workforce will bolster our competitiveness and economic development.”
Steps to Reduce Costs
Businesses can take actions to improve the health of their employees. Simple steps, such as making business properties tobacco-free, and offering health insurance that covers tobacco cessation can improve the bottom line. More and more businesses are also participating in the Oklahoma Certified Healthy Business program sponsored by The Academy for State Goals, the Oklahoma Turning Point Council, The State Chamber of Commerce and the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
“In addition, other states have proven that tobacco use can be reduced by implementing effective policies and programs at the local and state levels,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. “However, until laws put in place by the tobacco industry in the 1980’s and 90’s are repealed and local rights are returned to communities, cities and towns in Oklahoma are prohibited from passing local tobacco prevention ordinances that would protect their citizens and create a healthier workforce. Not allowing communities to produce a healthier workforce puts us at a competitive disadvantage in the fight for jobs and a growing economy.”
Even though smoking rates are high, the good news is that 3 out of 4 Oklahoma smokers want to quit. Serious quit attempts in the state are at an all time high. While many successfully quit on their own, receive services through health insurance or by talking to their doctor, there are also a variety of free services available for those who are seeking advice on quitting, including the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline (1-800-QUIT-NOW).
“Not only is tobacco use taking a personal toll through disease and death, the associated costs are killing the economic growth of our communities and the state,” added Cline. “From businesses to communities to individuals, each of us has a role to play in improving the lives and livelihoods of all Oklahomans by preventing and reducing tobacco use.”
Make it Your Business – a free program designed to enhance the health of your employees. Contact your local Communities of Excellence in Tobacco Control program, click here or find more information at www.strongandhealthy.ok.gov or Make it your Business.
Certified Healthy Businesses / Certified Healthy Restaurants Programs at www.okturningpoint.org
Quitting Tobacco Use Support:
Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) – Oklahomans receive free telephone based quit coaching and receive a free two-week starter kit of nicotine patches or gum. Funded by the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, Oklahoma State Department of Health and the US CDC.
BecomeAnEX.org – a free online quit smoking program that helps you re-learn your life without cigarettes. This website has a social networking component and is funded through the American Legacy Foundation.
How Can you make a Difference?