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For Release:     October 11, 2011          

Contact:           Leslea Bennett-Webb, OSDH, (405) 271-5601 – after hours: (405) 684-3920

                        Sjonna Paulson, APR, TSET, (405) 521-3885 – after hours: (405) 596-9399

Oklahoma Smoking Rate Reaches Historic Low

100,000 Fewer Smokers in Oklahoma in 2010

Oklahoma public health officials announced today that for the first time, Oklahoma now has more former smokers than current smokers. Analysis of 2010 adult smoking data indicates Oklahoma has dropped to a new historic low.

In 2001, the adult smoking rate in the state was 28.7 percent, dropping to a new low of 23.7 percent in 2010. The overall decrease from 2001 to 2010 is considered a statistically significant decline and represents 100,000 fewer Oklahomans who smoke in 2010.

“This decline in the number of our citizens who smoke is a milestone that should be celebrated by all Oklahomans,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. “The Oklahoma State Department of Health, Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, and many other community partners, healthcare providers, business owners, tribal organizations, and policy makers have worked together for years to achieve this significant decrease in Oklahoma’s smoking rate, and as a result, literally hundreds and hundreds of lives will be saved.”

Because of these efforts, Oklahoma has also noted a decrease in the number of cigarette packs sold, from 108 packs per person in 2001, to 71 packs per person in 2010.

“Although Oklahoma has made real progress over the past decade in reducing tobacco’s deadly toll on our state, we still have a long way to go,” Cline said. “The national adult smoking rate is currently 20.6 percent, and if we could achieve the same rate in our state, an additional 100,000 Oklahomans could be living healthier, smokefree lives. These decreases in tobacco use mean fewer of us will have to suffer unnecessary and preventable deaths, or the death of people we care about and love.”

“It takes a combination of effective programs and policies to overcome decades of tobacco industry influence,” said TSET Executive Director Tracey Strader. “Oklahoma’s commitment to proven approaches such as community grants to promote policy change, health communication campaigns, and effective smoking cessation services has helped ensure a healthier future for our state.”

Oklahoma is the only state in the nation to have constitutionally protected the majority of the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement funds by placing them in an endowment to ensure a growing source of funding dedicated to improving health. For the past nine years, TSET has used part of the earnings from the endowment to fund programs such as the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline (1-800-QUIT-NOW), the “Tobacco Stops With Me” health communication campaign, and the “Communities of Excellence in Tobacco Control” grant program.

“For the first time, all the critical elements of a comprehensive tobacco control program are in place in Oklahoma,” said OSDH Chief Operating Officer Julie Cox-Kain. “These elements are described in the Oklahoma State Plan for Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation, and the Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan, and are based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

As a result of these efforts, more than 200 public school districts in Oklahoma now have tobacco-free policies on campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week, meaning that two-thirds of Oklahoma’s public school students attend a tobacco-free school. At least 17 universities and five career-tech campuses in the state are tobacco-free, while dozens of Oklahoma businesses have adopted tobacco-free policies, as have 27 hospitals in metropolitan areas and 23 rural hospitals in the state.

In addition, evaluation results from the “Tobacco Stops With Me” campaign show that the campaign has doubled the number of quit attempts among smokers, increased knowledge of the harms of secondhand smoke, increased support for tobacco-free environments, and encouraged Oklahomans to take action to prevent and reduce tobacco use in their communities.

A timeline of major actions contributing to the reduction of smoking in Oklahoma follows:

  • 1998: Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) signed with tobacco companies.
  • 2000: Voter-approved constitutional amendment creates the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) for investment and protection of most MSA dollars.
  • 2003: Oklahoma Legislature amends state tobacco laws to ban smoking in most Oklahoma workplaces.
  • 2003: Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline launched with funding from TSET, OSDH and CDC.
  • 2003: The Oklahoma Certified Healthy Business program is launched by the OSDH to recognize those businesses who offer health and wellness opportunities for employees.
  • 2003: Oklahoma Health Care Authority begins coverage of all smoking cessation medications for Medicaid beneficiaries.
  • 2004: “Communities of Excellence in Tobacco Control” grant program launched by TSET.
  • 2005: Voter-approved state tobacco excise tax increase takes effect.
  • 2005: Oklahoma Legislature strengthens the Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco Act.
  • 2006: Oklahoma Employee Benefits Council begins offering insurance coverage of smoking cessation prescription products for all state HMO members.
  • 2007: Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board begins offering insurance coverage of smoking cessation prescription products for all HealthChoice members.
  • 2008: TSET and OSDH launch the “Tobacco Stops With Me” health communication campaign.
  • 2010: Oklahoma Legislature passes the Clean Air in Restaurants Act, establishing a rebate program to provide incentives to restaurant owners to close smoking rooms and become smokefree.

About 5,800 Oklahomans die each year as a result of smoking, making it Oklahoma's leading preventable cause of death. Another 700 Oklahomans who are nonsmokers die from exposure to secondhand smoke. On average, every Oklahoma household pays $556 each year in state and federal taxes to cover smoking-caused medical costs.

For information on how to quit tobacco use, call the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or register online at www.okhelpline.com . For information on Oklahoma’s tobacco use prevention programs visit http://tups.health.ok.gov or http://www.tset.ok.gov.



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