As of August 20, all Oklahoma public and private schools are tobacco-free. The new law will also prohibit anyone from using tobacco in school vehicles and at any school-sponsored or school-sanctioned event or activity, including sporting events.

House Bill 1685, also known as the 24/7 Tobacco-Free Schools Act, provides around-the-clock protection from the dangers of tobacco use.

“Tobacco products are the leading cause of preventable death in the state of Oklahoma,” said Governor Mary Fallin. “A lot of tobacco users first form the habit by being around other tobacco users, including friends and parents, when they are young. When I was growing up, it wasn’t unusual to see parents – or high school-aged children – smoking or dipping at sporting events and other school functions. This new law pushes tobacco off our school campuses and ensures our children aren’t picking up an unhealthy and potentially deadly habit in the very places that should be helping them develop healthy minds and bodies.”

Each year 17,900 youths in Oklahoma try smoking for the first time and 4,200 youths under the age of 18 start smoking daily. The new law aims to help reduce those numbers by limiting exposure to tobacco. Adolescent tobacco users are more at risk than adults for memory loss, depression, cardiac irregularities and long-term dependence.

“Our children learn behaviors by watching those around them,” said Dr. Terry Cline, Cabinet secretary of health and human services and Oklahoma State Department of Health commissioner.  “The 24/7 Tobacco-Free Schools Act will help prevent Oklahoma’s youth from becoming tobacco’s next victims.”

Although e-cigarettes and vapor products are not covered in the new law, schools are encouraged to include those products in their tobacco-free policies.  Already, 246 school districts have implemented a ban on e-cigarettes and vapor products, which can mimic conventional cigarettes. Vapor products may also contain nicotine, which negatively impacts adolescent brain development.

For information on quitting tobacco, call the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or register online at www.okhelpline.com.