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Oklahoma Smoking Rate Reaches Historic Low

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Oklahoma health officials announced today that the adult smoking rate in Oklahoma dropped in 2008 to a historic low of less than 25 percent. Also, for the first time, there are as many former smokers in Oklahoma as current smokers.

The adult smoking rate in Oklahoma dropped from 28.7 percent in 2001 to 24.7 percent in 2008. During the same time period, the proportion of former smokers in Oklahoma increased from 22.1 percent to 24.7 percent. 2008 was the first year Oklahoma had an equal proportion of former and current smokers.

“These historic milestones should be celebrated by all Oklahomans,” said State Board of Health President Barry Smith. “Although we still have long way to go, Oklahoma is making real progress in reducing tobacco’s deadly toll on our state.”

The successes are attributed to several major actions including the following:

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: Smoking banned in most Oklahoma workplaces; TSET launches Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline

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2004: TSET launches Communities of Excellence program

2005: Voter-approved state tobacco tax increase takes effect

2008: TSET launches Tobacco Stops With Me campaign

“It takes a combination of effective programs and policies to overcome decades of tobacco industry influence,” said Tracey Strader, executive director of the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust. “We’re especially thankful to everyone who has taken action to put Oklahoma on the right track.”

Oklahoma is the only state in the nation to have constitutionally protected the majority of the Master Settlement Agreement funds in an endowment to ensure a growing source of funding dedicated to improving health.

“For the first time, all the critical elements of a comprehensive tobacco control

program are in place in Oklahoma,” said Doug Matheny, chief, Oklahoma State Department of Health Tobacco Use Prevention Service.

Matheny said a new Oklahoma State Plan for Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation calls for reducing tobacco use rates in Oklahoma to below the national rate of 20 percent by 2012. “Achieving this goal would result in 200,000 fewer adult and youth tobacco users in the state,” he explained. The plan includes stronger tobacco control policies and full program funding.

Smoking is Oklahoma's leading preventable cause of death, killing more Oklahomans than alcohol, auto accidents, AIDS, suicides, murders, and illegal drugs combined. Smoking costs Oklahoma more than $2.7 billion in medical expenses and lost productivity each year – or an average of $750 per Oklahoman.