Report: Oklahoma 'Making Progress' on Policies to Help Battle Cancer

Aug 1, 2019

Oklahoma is one of 29 states and D.C. making progress on instituting cancer-fighting policies, according to a new report.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network "How Do You Measure Up?" report says Oklahoma meets four of eight policy benchmarks for fighting cancer.

Those benchmarks include tobacco prevention and cessation funding among the highest in the nation. Most of that comes from the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust: $19 million compared to about $1.5 million in state dollars.

ACS CAN Oklahoma Government Relations Director Scott Tholen said that makes a health care survey distributed on Gov. Kevin Stitt's statewide tour concerning. It tests the waters on capping funding to TSET or dissolving it.

"The question that I would have for the governor and legislature in regards to those surveys: Are you prepared to ask Oklahomans to pay more in taxes to make up for the loss of those funds?" Tholen said.

The report dings Oklahoma for not having smoke-free laws or increasing access to Medicaid. Tholen said they will push for a smoke-free law in 2020, which could be a heavy lift.

"In Oklahoma, we have pre-emption, meaning that our local municipalities cannot voluntarily go smoke-free if they so choose. It would take action at the state level to create a smoke-free environment. And when we say 'smoke-free,' we also do include vapor-free," Tholen said.

About one in three cancer deaths in Oklahoma are tied to tobacco. That includes secondhand smoke.

Tholen said it’s important the state improve where it can.

"In 2019, more than 20,540 people in Oklahoma will be diagnosed with cancer, and more than 8,400 will die of the disease," Tholen said.

Just three states are rated as "doing well" in the report, meaning they meet at least six benchmarks.