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Tobacco Stops With Me Seeks To Protect Youth On World No Tobacco Day

May 31 Event Focuses on Big Tobacco Targeting Youth and Young Adults

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 26, 2020) – May 31 is World No Tobacco Day, and Tobacco Stops With Me, a program of the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET), is encouraging Oklahomans to stand up to Big Tobacco’s decades of illegally targeting our youth with their deadly products. World No Tobacco Day is also an opportunity for any smoker to mark to start of their tobacco-free journey amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in Oklahoma, 9% of high school students are current tobacco users, which is nearly twice the national average. High school students who report using e-cigarettes is at an alarming 27.8% in our state. Furthermore, research shows that at the current rate of youth tobacco use, 1,500 kids will become regular smokers each year.

“We know that 9 out of 10 smokers start before age 18, and that is why tobacco companies develop products and tactics to attract children, said Julie Bisbee, TSET executive director. “We have seen unprecedented progress in our state reducing youth tobacco use, but as the tobacco landscape evolves, more work needs to be done to protect Oklahoma’s future from the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke.”

Although certain advertising practices, such as the use of cartoon characters and billboards, were banned as part of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, tobacco companies still spend $9 billion a year to market their products, according to the Federal Trade Commission. In Oklahoma, tobacco companies spend $172 million annually to market their deadly products. Documented as calling them “replacement smokers,” the tobacco industry needs Oklahoma kids and young adults to become hooked, offsetting Big Tobacco’s revenue losses from the Oklahomans who die every day from a tobacco-related illness or disease.

In fact, Tobacco claims 7,500 lives and costs the state $1.62 billion in health care costs annually in Oklahoma alone. In addition, COVID-19 has the potential to increase those costs and causalities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists smokers among those at greater risk for severe illness. Considered to be immunocompromised because smoking weakens the lungs, smokers are encouraged to quit now more than ever, but Big Tobacco’s deceptive tactics can make quitting difficult to achieve or even attempt, especially among youth.

“Still today, Big Tobacco finds new ways to effectively target youth,” said Lora Buechele, TSET Healthy Living Program grantee in Cherokee County. “They use social media, product placement, candy-flavored products and more. This World No Tobacco Day is the prime opportunity for parents to have a conversation with their kids about tobacco use, including vaping, as families are spending more time together due to the COVID-19 pandemic and summer break."

Published research studies have found that kids are twice as sensitive to tobacco advertising as adults and are more likely to be influenced to smoke by cigarette marketing than by peer pressure. One-third of underage experimentation with smoking is attributable to tobacco company advertising.

Additional protections against youth tobacco use were made state law on May 20, when Gov. Kevin Stitt signed legislation raising Oklahoma’s tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21, effective immediately. The state law aligns Oklahoma with the federal regulation passed in December 2019.

To help reduce and prevent youth tobacco use on World No Tobacco Day, Tobacco Stops With Me offers the following tips for parents:

  • Talk directly to your children about the risks of tobacco. Your attitudes and feelings can greatly influence whether or not your child smokes.

  • Educate your children on the harmful effects of flavored tobacco products, like e-cigarettes and vapes, and emphasize that they are all still just as harmful as cigarettes or smokeless tobacco.

  • If your child has friends who smoke, talk about ways to defend against peer pressure.

  • Make sure your child’s school is providing tobacco education and smoking prevention programs to students – and not programs funded by Big Tobacco.

  • If you’re a parent who uses tobacco, think about quitting, call 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit the newly redesigned OKHelpline.com to explore the free services available through the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline.

  • Youth who are already using tobacco products are also able to use the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline’s services. Quit coaching is available for callers 13 years and older. Call 1-800-QUIT NOW or visit OKHelpline.com for more information.    

Visit StopsWithMe.com for more tools, tips and resources to protect Oklahoma’s youth from tobacco. Connect with Tobacco Stops With Me on social media by liking their Facebook page or following @StopsWithMe on Twitter. For more information, sign up for the Tobacco Stops With Me newsletter at StopsWithMe.com/Get-Involved to help make your community tobacco free.

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About Tobacco Stops With Me
Tobacco Stops With Me is a statewide campaign, funded through the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Trust, that provides an efficient, emotional and highly recognizable tobacco-free message for Oklahomans to rally around. By educating the public about the negative effects and impact of tobacco, the goal of Tobacco Stops With Me is to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and improve the health and quality of life of every Oklahoman. Tobacco Stops With Me aims to inspire individuals to make positive changes—not only for their own health, but for the health of the entire state as well.

About TSET
The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) serves as a partner and bridge-builder for organizations working toward shaping a healthier future for all Oklahomans. TSET provides leadership at the intersections of health by working across the state, by cultivating innovative and life-changing research, and by working across public and private sectors to develop, support, implement and evaluate creative strategies to take advantage of emerging opportunities to improve the public's health. TSET. Better Lives Through Better Health.