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American Lung Association report recommends tobacco use policy improvements in Oklahoma

An ashtray filled with cigarette butts.
Julia Engel
/
Unsplash
An ashtray filled with cigarette butts.

The American Lung Association released its annual State of Tobacco Control report, including recommendations on how states like Oklahoma can eliminate tobacco deaths and related diseases.

In the report, the association assigns letter grades, A-F, to state and federal policies that are proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

The association reported that tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Oklahoma. It received an A in tobacco prevention and control program funding, and access to smoking cessation services.

Oklahoma is the only state to direct settlement funds it received from a 1998 lawsuit against the four largest tobacco companies in the U.S. into a constitutionally protected trust, the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust. The trust takes in 75% of the payments it receives, and it prioritizes direct investments in programs to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

The number of adults who smoke in Oklahoma fell from 26.1% in 2011 to 15.6% in 2022 because of these investments. The association wrote in the report that Oklahoma “must stay vigilant in protecting” the fund.

The association also wrote that, despite its successes, Oklahoma still has room to grow. It gave Oklahoma an F for policies related to smoke-free air, an F for flavored tobacco product policies and a D for its tobacco tax policies.

It recommends removing the state’s ability to prevent local governments from enacting stronger laws concerning smoking use. It is still legal to smoke in state hotels, bars and in-home daycares when children aren’t present. Stronger local laws could help the state work toward more smoke-free environments and limit secondhand smoke.

It also recommends requiring a license or permit to sell e-cigarette products, and taxing e-cigarettes. As of 2021, 21.7% of Oklahoma high school students used e-cigarettes and according to the Oklahoma ABLE Commission, there were 479 violations from minors caught in school with products that year.

Oklahoma recently became one of the first states to launch a registry where manufacturers and retailers report the vapor products they plan to sell. The association applauded this effort in its report.

“[This] could provide a useful tool for the state to crack down on illegal sales of e-cigarette products if the state conducts regular compliance checks on e-cigarette retailers,” the report reads.

The association called on lawmakers to continue focusing on penalties for sellers of tobacco and e-cigarette products.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Jillian Taylor reports on health and related topics for StateImpact Oklahoma.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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