The Edmond Sun

January 17, 2013

Oklahoma tobacco efforts again get poor grades from American Lung Association

Shannon Muchmore

TULSA — Oklahoma again has received mostly below-average marks for tobacco control and prevention, this time in a report released Wednesday by the American Lung Association.

Many states received poor grades in the annual report, titled the State of Tobacco Control 2013.

“The key message here across the board is not enough is being done to combat the tobacco industry,” said Michelle Bernth, senior vice president of marketing for the American Lung Association in Oklahoma.

The state received the exact same grades as last year, largely because little changed in the state’s policies, she said.

“There’s not a big change because they’re not making any changes,” Bernth said.

The state received a D for tobacco prevention and control program funding, although the report did make a positive note of how Oklahoma constitutionally protects its allocation of tobacco settlement dollars.

States mostly received Fs in this category. Two states, Alaska and North Dakota, received As, Bernth said.

Total state and federal funding for tobacco control programs in Oklahoma in fiscal year 2013 is about $22.5 million, which is about half of the level recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Oklahoma also received a D for smoke-free air. The report notes that smoking is prohibited in schools, child-care facilities and recreational facilities and is restricted in government and private work sites, restaurants and nontribal gaming establishments.

There are no restrictions for smoking in bars.

Again this year, state and local health officials are promoting legislation that would allow cities to create smoking regulations that are stricter than state law.

Previous years’ attempts to pass the same legislation to repeal pre-emption have failed.

“That’s a really archaic setup,” Bernth said. “That’s one of the first things that needs to happen in Oklahoma is pre-emption needs to be repealed.”

The state received a D for its tax of $1.03 per pack of 20 cigarettes. The national average is $1.49. No states have equalized taxes on other tobacco products to the rate for cigarettes, according to the report.

Oklahoma’s best mark was a C for cessation coverage. The state’s stop-smoking hotline has an investment of $6.79 per smoker, far below the CDC’s recommended amount of $10.53.

The state Medicaid plan and state employee health plans cover all seven recommended tobacco-cessation products and individual and telephone counseling. There are, however, limits on duration and an annual limit for attempts to quit, and some copayments are required.

There is no private insurance mandate.

Shannon Muchmore 918-581-8378