Oklahoma’s smoking prevention program is 11th in U.S.
BY SUSAN SIMPSON
Published: December 10, 2009
Oklahoma ranks 11th among states in funding programs to prevent young people from taking up smoking and to help existing smokers quit, according to The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, a coalition of public health groups.
Oklahoma will spend $21.1 million this fiscal year on prevention and cessation efforts. That’s $2 million more than last fiscal year, when the group ranked Oklahoma 13th among states.
But the state still spends less than half the $45 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Only one state, North Dakota, spent the recommended amount.
“We’re well on our way to doing what’s needed, but we have a long way to go,” said Tracey Strader, executive director of the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund. “Certainly Oklahoma is making forward progress where a lot of other states are falling backwards.”
Still, the report criticizes Oklahoma for spending just 5.4 percent of money from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes on prevention programs. Strader says that’s because Oklahoma decided to invest settlement funds and spend only interest revenue.
“Oklahoma took a longer-term vision by creating an endowment and only using the earnings,” said Doug Matheny, chief of tobacco use prevention for the state Health Department.
He said Oklahoma is starting to see results from that investment. The adult smoking rate dropped from 28.7 percent in 2001 to 24.7 percent in 2008. During the same period, the proportion of former smokers in Oklahoma increased from 22.1 percent to 24.7 percent. That marked the first time Oklahoma had equal numbers of former and current smokers.
Matheny said the number of cigarettes sold each year dropped last year to a 40-year low of 287.5 million packs, sold by both tribal and nontribal entities. He attributes the drop to prevention and cessation efforts and public policy. More than 37,000 Oklahomans called the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline in fiscal year 2009.
The state has a goal of reducing tobacco use rates to below the national rate of 20 percent by 2012.
“Over 6,000 Oklahomans die each year because of tobacco use,” Matheny said. “It’s the No. 1 preventable cause of death.”
Know it: Addiction
To get help
Call the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline at (800) QUIT-NOW.
The full report from The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids is available at tobaccofreekids.org.