Oklahoma is 3rd in preventing smoking in kids

Oklahoma ranks third in the country in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a national report released today by a coalition of public health organizations. Oklahoma is spending $25 million this year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 59.1 percent of the $42.3 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Oklahoma is one of only five states that are providing at least half the CDC-recommended funding for tobacco prevention programs.

In Oklahoma, tobacco companies spend an estimated $181 million to market their deadly and addictive products each year. That means tobacco companies spend $7 to promote tobacco use for every $1 Oklahoma spends to prevent it.

Other key findings for Oklahoma include:

  • Oklahoma will collect $385.8 million this year from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes and will spend 6.5 percent of it on tobacco prevention programs.
  • In Oklahoma, 18.5 percent of high school students smoke, and 3,300 kids become regular smokers each year. Tobacco claims 7,500 lives and costs the state $1.6 billion in health care bills annually.

The report, titled “Broken Promises to Our Children: A State-by-State Look at the 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 17 Years Later,” was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights and Truth Initiative.

The report assesses whether the states have kept their promise to use a significant portion of their settlement funds – estimated to total $246 billion over the first 25 years – to fight tobacco use.

The states also collect billions of dollars more each year from tobacco taxes.

A spokesman said Oklahoma has made progress in the fight against tobacco because of a state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2000 that provides dedicated funding for tobacco prevention.

The amendment requires that a portion of the state’s annual tobacco settlement payments go into a Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund, with the earnings used to finance tobacco prevention and other programs to improve health. Oklahoma’s tobacco prevention program has helped reduce the state’s high school smoking rate from 28.6 percent in 2005 to 18.5 percent in 2013.

“The tobacco companies are as relentless as ever in marketing their lethal products, so it is critical that Oklahoma keep up its impressive efforts to protect our kids from tobacco addiction and help smokers quit,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Oklahoma’s smart investment is saving lives and health care dollars and must be continued.”

Nationally, the report finds that:

  • Most states fail to sufficiently fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The states will collect $25.8 billion this year from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend less than two percent of it ($468 million) on tobacco prevention programs.
  • The $468 million the states have budgeted for tobacco prevention is a small fraction of the $3.3 billion the CDC recommends. Only one state – North Dakota – is funding tobacco prevention programs at CDC-recommended levels.
  • States with well-funded, sustained tobacco prevention programs continue to deliver results. Florida, with one of the longest-running programs, reduced its high school smoking rate to just 6.9 percent this year, one of the lowest rates ever reported by any state and a 75 percent decline since 1998.

North Dakota, which ranks first for the third year in a row in this report, cut smoking among high school students by nearly half from 2009 to 2015 (from 22.4 percent to 11.7 percent).

Nationwide, tobacco companies spend $9.6 billion a year – more than one million dollars every hour – to market their products, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Industry tactics that entice kids include:

Tobacco use kills more than 480,000 Americans and costs the nation about $170 billion in health care expenses each year.