Health groups have recommended several policies they said together will cut Oklahoma’s smoking rate from 20 percent to 10 in 10 years.
Many deal with kids’ access to tobacco: Raise the smoking age to 21, ban flavored tobacco products, hike cigarette prices and crack down on sales to minors. Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Executive Director John Woods said that’s by design.
"The tobacco industry is actively looking for replacement smokers, because their product kills half of those who use it. That recruiting starts with our children and young adults," Woods said.
Woods said not selling tobacco to minors is especially important because federal mental health funding is tied to it.
"A state has to have a noncompliance rate of no more than 20 percent. This past year, it was at 18 percent," Woods said. "That’s inexcusable by our local retailers. Our state cannot afford to lose millions of dollars in federal funding to shore up our mental health department."
Other recommendations are to prohibit smoking in cars with kids, completely ban indoor smoking in places open to the public and remove smokers as a protected class of employees.
"We know Oklahomans support these efforts — 71 percent of Oklahomans support smoke-free public workplaces. More than 80 percent of Oklahomans support prohibiting smoking in vehicles with minors," Woods said.
The U.S. smoking rate hit an all-time low this year, falling to 14 percent.
TSET and its public education campaign, Tobacco Stops With Me, is joined in the effort by Oklahoma State Medical Association, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Southern Plains Tribal Health Board and more than 30 other partners.