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No Surprise: County lags on tobacco front

Publication Date: 2010-08-11
  • Author:Editorial writers
  • Publication:Tulsa World.com

It comes as no surprise, despite improved efforts to reduce tobacco consumption and exposure, that Tulsa County still isn't making the grade when it comes to addressing this serious health problem.

According to the first report card issued by the Tulsa Tobacco Free Coalition, Tulsa County received grades of C and D for its efforts in reducing tobacco use and exposure.

Specifically, the county got a D for its efforts to eliminate secondhand smoke and also a D for efforts to stop young people from taking up the habit. Those poor grades were attributed to the inadequacy of clean-air ordinances in some communities and weak or nonexistent regulations prohibiting sales to minors.

The report also noted that no schools in the county provide tobacco prevention instruction.

Tulsa County got a C for promotion of tobacco cessation services, a barely passing grade that is in part thanks to the existence of the state tobacco help line. Even with the state assistance, calls from the county for help in kicking the habit dropped by 372 from the previous year.

The county also got a C for efforts to reduce tobacco industry influence through the promotion of prevention in the media.

Some communities in Tulsa County - Tulsa, Bixby, Broken Arrow, Owasso, Sand Springs and Collinsville - have clean-air ordinances and regulations regarding sales to minors that meet state standards. But other communities have weak ordinances or none at all, according to the report.

A big part of the problem is the state of Oklahoma doesn't allow cities to enact stronger ordinances than the state has - the so-called pre-emption rule. Thanks in part to the tobacco industry's efforts, Oklahoma is one of only two states (the other is Tennessee) that still has a pre-emption rule.

Local communities could and should do more to address this public health scourge - the single greatest contributor to death, disease and high treatment costs in the state - but the real culprit here is the state Legislature, which has to date not been able to stand up to the might and power of Big Tobacco.