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24/7 Tobacco-Free Campus Supports Improved Health in Oklahoma

Op Ed, Casey Killblane
August 28, 2015

This past week we celebrated a milestone for the future of our children. A new law making all school campuses tobacco-free, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week took effect on Thursday, August 20. Now all children, in all corners of the state, will attend schools that support making the healthy choice, the easy choice.

The future prosperity of our state depends upon a healthy and prepared workforce, that’s why healthy school environments are essential. This law demonstrates commitment to improving the health of future generations in our state, where more than 1 in 5 adults smoke.

We can all agree that tobacco use is not part of a bright future for our children. Preventing Oklahoma children from entering the pipeline of a lifetime of addiction to tobacco products is an important goal for all.

The passage of this bill, championed by Rep. Lee Denney, R- Cushing, and signed into law by Gov. Fallin, supports the intent of most local school boards across the state that had already passed tobacco-free school policies.

More than 85 percent of the student population in Oklahoma were covered by these local school board policies, and this new law levels the playing field for the rest of the state. Now school grounds are tobacco-free 24 hours a day 7 days a week, including school sponsored events such as Friday night football games and Saturday morning track meets.

Ask any educator and they will tell you that adult role models make a difference in the lives of children. Our children are always watching how we act – and emulating what they see. This new state law reinforces efforts in the classroom that remind children of the dangers of tobacco use and secondhand smoke. Staff, parents and students can all show their support by spreading the message and informing others about the law.

Nearly 9 out of 10 smokers tried their first cigarettes by age 18 and even today in Oklahoma, 4,200 of our youth become new daily smokers. Smoking and other tobacco use impacts the developing brains of young people, and they become quickly addicted to nicotine. This is one of the many reasons it is illegal to sell tobacco to kids. The health effects often last well into adulthood and it is estimated that 87,000 Oklahoma children alive today will eventually die from a tobacco-caused illness, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

Under the new law, school boards can extend their local policies to include e-cigarette or vapor products, and many already have. The school environment is no place to role model addiction whether it is in the form of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, or vapor products containing nicotine. Each step we take to ensure healthy environments where kids learn, is a step towards a brighter, healthier and more productive future for the children of Oklahoma.

Casey Killblane of Davis, is a member of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust’s Board of Directors. TSET was created by voters in 2000 to ensure that payments from the national Master Settlement Agreement were used to improve the health of Oklahomans.

Contact: Julie Bisbee, Public Information Officer, 405-301-3693