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News Memo

For Release: September 26, 2001
Contact: Leslea Bennett-Webb

What: Joint news conference to announce an unprecedented partnership among Oklahoma’s  leaders in health, social services and enforcement – and their public and private  constituencies – to address Oklahoma’s single most preventable cause of death: tobacco addiction.
Date/Time: Monday, October 1, 10 a.m.
Location: OU Medical Center, Everett Tower
Coussons Conference Center, Conference Room “B”, 2nd Floor
(Formerly known as University Hospital; parking for media available in front, enter off 13th Street; or in parking garage, enter off Phillips Avenue. Parking stickers will be provided at the news conference for free garage parking. See enclosed map.)

Leslie M. Beitsch, MD, JD
Commissioner, Oklahoma State Department of Health

Terry L. Cline, Ph.D.
Commissioner, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Mike Fogarty, MSW, JD
Chief Executive Officer, Oklahoma Health Care Authority

Gary Davidson
Director, Oklahoma ABLE Commission

Paul Murphy
Chief Operating Officer, American Cancer Society, Heartland Division

Background: As a state, Oklahoma’s health ranking is dismal: 44th in the nation. The sobering reality is that tobacco use is the key issue that makes Oklahoma a less healthy place to live.

The implications for our economy and the future health of our young people are dramatic. Many Oklahomans mistakenly believe that with the creation of the Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund, adequate programs are now being funded to discourage our youth from using tobacco products and to help individuals who do smoke or chew to quit. The truth is that it may be more than 10 years before enough money has accumulated in the trust fund to adequately address Oklahoma’s tobacco use problem. By that time, thousands more Oklahomans will have died unnecessarily from their tobacco addiction and thousands more of our youth will become addicted to tobacco.

Although many coalitions, committees and task forces have made recommendations to address Oklahoma’s tobacco problem, the result has been only minimal change in public policy and program investment to discourage tobacco use and reduce its addiction. In this joint news conference, state leaders, joined by numerous public and private partners, will recommend four key proposals to overcome the tobacco stalemate and improve the state of Oklahoma’s health.



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