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Editorial: Turn up the heat on smokers

Publication Date: 10/13/2011
  • Author:Journal Record Staff
  • Publication:Journal Record

The good news is that 23.7 percent of Oklahomans smoke. That’s a decline from the 28.7 percent who smoked in 2000, the year voters created the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.

The bad news is that 23.7 percent of Oklahomans smoke. Only Kentucky and West Virginia have higher rates, reporting 24.8 percent and 26.8 percent respectively. Oklahoma’s smoking rate is a whopping 6.5 percent higher than the national average of 17.2 percent and an incredible 14.6 percent higher than Utah, which has the lowest rate at 9.5 percent.

Each year, the trust has more endowment earnings available to spend on its cessation campaign. In the most recent fiscal year, TSET had $18 million available. Despite that spending, we’re 49th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia when it comes to smokers.

We applaud the noteworthy progress, but as the endowment earnings increase in coming years, trust officials must turn up the heat on cessation. Oklahoma is one of just two states that do not allow municipalities to regulate smoking. The Legislature must ignore the tobacco lobby, repeal the statute, and allow Oklahoma cities to draft no-smoking ordinances as they see fit. The payoff is a healthier, more productive workforce and lower health care costs. Oh, one other positive note: People live longer.