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TSET Board of Directors Pass Resolutions Supporting State Policies to Curb Obesity, Tobacco Use

OKLAHOMA CITY (Aug. 27, 2020) – The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) Board of Directors passed two resolutions today encouraging the adoption of policies and laws to curb obesity in Oklahoma and to protect Oklahomans from the dangers of tobacco.

Obesity is an increasing epidemic in Oklahoma. The state places 46th in U.S. health rankings, with 35% of the state's population being obese. The healthcare costs attributed to obesity in Oklahoma are over $1.7 billion each year.

“The TSET Board of Directors encourages the public and leaders at the state and local level to embrace policies that encourage active lifestyles and smart dietary choices, and support programs that teach wellness and healthy lifestyles,” said Dr. Bruce Benjamin, board chair.

State policies supported by the TSET Board of Directors include repealing the sales tax on healthy food; funding health education and physical activity courses for all Oklahoma public school students; and funding complete streets, safe routes to schools and other active transportation measures.

The second resolution states that all Oklahomans should be protected from the dangers of tobacco. 

Currently, Oklahoma laws do not include full protections from tobacco use and secondhand smoke for adults and children. Every year, 7,500 Oklahomans die from smoking-related illnesses, and tobacco costs the state over $1.6 billion in healthcare costs. Although cigarette use has declined in Oklahoma, e-cigarettes and vaping have drastically increased. Oklahoma laws do not classify e-cigarettes and vapes as tobacco products and they are not taxed at a comparable rate to cigarettes. 

“Big Tobacco is very supportive of Oklahoma laws making it easier for adults and youth to use tobacco and keep them addicted. Vaping is Big Tobacco's latest trick. They're making a profit by hooking millions of kids on their addictive products. In Oklahoma, vaping is illegal for those under 21, yet vaping among Oklahoma high school students continues to increase,” said Julie Bisbee, TSET executive director.

Specific policies supported in the resolution include comprehensive clean indoor air laws; prohibiting smoking in cars when children are present; a meaningful price increase on tobacco products, including vaping products; and a repeal of preemption measures that prevent counties and cities from passing their own tobacco control ordinances.

“The resolutions adopted by the TSET Board of Directors demonstrate that TSET’s work not only emphasizes tobacco prevention but also addresses physical activity, access to healthy food and health education,” Benjamin said. “TSET has been working on these challenges for 20 years and we continue to strongly believe that it is our mission, now and in the future, to create a healthier Oklahoma.”

The full resolutions can be found here.

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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. To learn more, visit tset.ok.gov.

TSET – Better Lives Through Better Health