Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Oklahoma. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in Oklahoma calls for the following actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Maintain dedicated funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs;
- Increase the cigarette by at least a $1.00 per pack; and
- Pass a comprehensive statewide smokefree law that protects all workers and patrons from secondhand smoke.
During the 2017 legislative session, the American Lung Association along with our partners worked to increase the price of cigarettes by $1.50 per pack. The bill was passed by the legislature and enacted by Gov. Mary Fallin. However, the Oklahoma Supreme Court later in 2017 ruled the increase, which had been called a fee and passed by a simple majority, unconstitutional. Revenue-raising bills in Oklahoma have to meet several special requirements, including being supported by three-quarters of members in each house of the state legislature. An increase in price 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 2018. 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 2018, the American Lung Association in Oklahoma, along with public health partners, will continue to raise public awareness regarding the need for a comprehensive statewide smokefree law. We will continue to support legislation that would increase the price cigarette by a $1.50 per pack, and continue to protect funding for TSET and the Oklahoma Department of Health.