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Director’s Column: New Data Shows Progress in Reducing Smoking, Obesity

Oklahoma smoking is at an all-time low with just 19.6 percent of Oklahoma adults smoking and obesity among Oklahoma adults declined for the first time since 2011, according to data released in August by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This new data shows promise for the health of Oklahomans and begins to affirm the efforts of TSET and others in investing in grants and programs that work to get healthy policies in place, and provide opportunities for healthier choices. An independent study shows that smoking in Oklahoma is declining 10 times faster than states with similar clean air laws and excise taxes on tobacco.

Nationally, the rate of adult smoking is 17.1 percent. The needle is moving slowly, but steadily as TSET and partners remain committed to preventing and reducing tobacco use.

At the same time, Oklahoma made strides in reducing obesity among adults. The obesity rate among adults dropped by more than one percentage point to 32.8 percent. This decline in Oklahoma is happening while obesity across the country is increasing. Nearly a decade ago, Oklahoma was on pace to be the most obese state in the country --- and through strategic investments and partnerships in schools, businesses, communities, hospitals we are seeing a decrease. TSET’s public education efforts through Shape Your Future are helping Oklahomans become more aware of what it means to eat better, move more and support healthy choices.

Through continued commitment, hard work and constant emphasis on the need for healthy policies and healthy environments we are moving up from the bottom of the ranks and towards securing a brighter future for future generations.

Tobacco use and obesity are costing our state more than $3 billion a year in healthcare costs related to missing work and lost productivity. We know that about 15% of costs to Medicaid in Oklahoma can be attributed to treating smoking-related health conditions. Based on a recent analysis, we have found that TSET’s funding of tobacco cessation led to more Medicaid enrollees quitting smoking. With fewer enrollees smoking, Oklahoma saved an estimated $128 million between 2006 and 2015. Prevention and cost avoidance can feel like abstract concepts, especially in the face of immediate needs. But the benefit of prevention and a healthier Oklahoma is fewer people are sick, fewer people are stressing our state’s healthcare system and fewer people are being admitted to our hospitals with preventable conditions so that real emergencies can be top priority.

So, while it’s easy to look at what we’ve accomplished in driving down smoking rates, it still remains the leading cause of preventable death in this state and we must keep working to make our state a healthier place for all Oklahomans to live, work, learn and play.