1. Maintain dedicated funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs;
2. Increase the cigarette tax by at least a $1.00 per pack; and
3. Pass a comprehensive statewide smokefree law that protects all workers and patrons from secondhand smoke.
During the 2016 legislative session, a bill was introduced to increase the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack. The bill passed through several committees before failing on the floor of the House of Representatives. A $1.50 per pack cigarette tax would provide big benefits to the state, including preventing nearly 32,000 Oklahoma kids from starting to smoke, prompting nearly as many adults to quit and preventing approximately 18,000 tobacco-related deaths.
Dedicated funding from the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) for the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) remained intact for fiscal year 2017, and the amount of funding dedicated to tobacco prevention and cessation programs by TSET even increased by close to $1.5 million. Oklahoma voters made a wise decision by putting 75 percent of MSA payments each year into TSET, and the Lung Association will oppose any attempts to raid these funds by the legislature.
Program initiatives of TSET and the Oklahoma Department of Health to prevent and reduce tobacco use include the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW, cessation systems grants, community grants covering over 85 percent of the state's population, funding for tribal nations and other priority populations and statewide media campaigns intended to change the social norms related to tobacco use.
In 2017, the American Lung Association in Oklahoma, along with strong public health partners, will continue to raise public awareness regarding the need for a comprehensive statewide smokefree law. We will also be supporting legislation that would increase the cigarette tax by a $1.00 per pack or more, and continue to protect funding for TSET and the Oklahoma Department of Health.