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John Woods: Our long-term plan to save thousands of Oklahoma lives and millions of state dollars

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of TSET’s Tobacco Stops With Me program earlier this month, TSET announced a bold agenda to cut adult smoking in half over the next decade. More than 30 partner organizations including Blue Cross-Blue Shield, Oklahoma State Medical Association, YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City and Southern Plains Tribal Health Board, also signed on to a 7-point plan to cut adult smoking in half in the next decade.

It’s a bold goal. It’s a moonshot goal. And it’s achievable by bringing a diverse group of partners together to advocate for policy changes that will save lives, keep young people from starting to use tobacco and protect all Oklahomans from tobacco use and secondhand smoke.

As we reflect on the first 10 years of the Tobacco Stops With Me program, TSET’s work has accelerated the largest reduction of the adult smoking rate in the state’s history and cut the youth smoking rate in half. While the nation’s smoking rate has also been declining, an independent study of TSET’s grants and programs show that the continued investment in proven programs and practices resulted in a decrease in smoking at a rate 10-times faster than other states with similar laws and tobacco prices. Wins like the recent $1.00 cigarette and little cigar tax passed by the state legislature last year are milestones, but as long as smoking continues to addict our youth and kill nearly 7,500 Oklahomans each year, we cannot declare victory. Our work is not done.

For every Oklahoman that dies from tobacco use, 30 more suffer from smoking-related chronic illness. We need to prepare ourselves to tackle the remaining burdens that tobacco places on our public’s health.

The Tobacco Stops With Me agenda to cut adult smoking to 10 percent in 10 years outlines the necessary steps Oklahoma should take to save lives and create a healthier future for our state. The initiative focuses on creating common sense solutions and modernizing policies – including policies influenced by tobacco companies that have since been ordered by a federal judge run advertising highlight the industry’s efforts to lie, mislead, addict and distort the facts about the harms of tobacco use and secondhand smoke.

  • Prohibit smoking in cars with children present
  • Remove exemptions in state law that allow smoking in bars, hotels and other businesses
  • Raise the minimum legal age to buy tobacco products to 21
  • Ban on all menthols and flavored tobacco
  • Cigarette price increases over the next decade
  • Strengthen enforcement against underage tobacco sales
  • Remove labor law protections for smokers

While educating on the need for updated policies, TSET will also be increasing its investment in programs aimed at empowering youth to be tobacco-free. The TSET Board of Directors has also committed to increasing funding for programs that work with healthcare providers and health systems to ensure that doctors, nurses, dentists and all other associated staff are talking to Oklahomans about the benefits of being tobacco free and directing them to our state’s top-ranked Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline.

To add your name in support of this effort, click here. You can learn more about how we are taking a stand against tobacco in our state and our aggressive agenda by clicking here.