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New Law Protects Public School Children, Visitors from Tobacco Use

A bill signed by Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday will protect all Oklahoma public school children from the influences and hazards of tobacco use and secondhand smoke on school campuses.

Fallin signed House Bill 1685 which requires all school campus to be tobacco free, 24-hours a day, seven-days a week. State law requires schools to be smokefree during the school day. This new law, which takes effect later this year, will provide additional protections for school children and visitors during school-sponsored events on campus.

“This is a great step forward in ensuring that Oklahoma’s young people attend schools where the healthy choice, is the easy choice,” said Tracey Strader, executive director of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET). “It isn’t enough to simply teach children about the dangers of tobacco use in the classroom. Those lessons are immediately lost when they walk out the door and see the role models in their lives using tobacco. Policies like this help prevent young people from starting to use tobacco, and support everyone in maintaining a tobacco-free lifestyle.”

TSET, created by voters in 2000, has supported community based grants serving more than 85 percent of the state’s population. Many of the grant programs encourage local coalitions to meet with school boards across the state to encourage the district to adopt policies to protect students and visitors from secondhand smoke and tobacco use.

“This new law ensures that all Oklahoma children and communities benefit from the protections of a tobacco-free campus,” said Casey Killblane, a member of the TSET Board of Directors appointed by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “The TSET board of directors is dedicated to preventing the Oklahoma’s kids from entering the pipeline of addiction, disease, and death, from tobacco use. This law will help this and future generations of our children realize their full potential and help create a healthier Oklahoma.”

The bill was authored by House Speaker Pro Tem Lee Denney and State Senator Jim Halligan.

Since TSET began making grants in 2002, youth smoking has been cut in half, adult smoking has reached historic lows and youth obesity has leveled off.

Each year, the tobacco industry makes a settlement payment to Oklahoma and 45 other states as part of the national Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement. Settlement payments will continue as long as cigarettes are sold nationally. Court documents obtained during state lawsuits against the industry show that tobacco companies specifically marketed their product to youth under 18, in hopes of getting “replacement smokers.”

In more recent years, a federal judge found the tobacco companies guilty of racketeering under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act for defrauding the public, including lying about the health damage caused by smoking; the addictive nature of nicotine; their marketing and promotion of “low tar” and “light” cigarettes as healthier when there are no clear health benefits; designing tobacco products to be as addictive as possible; and engaging in a massive effort to hide the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Cigarettes kill 1-in-3 users and kill 7,500 Oklahomans a year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Seventy-five percent of each payment made to the State of Oklahoma is deposited in the endowment fund for investment. Only the earnings are used to fund grants and programs aimed at to improve the health of Oklahomans. TSET’s strategic plan aims to prevent and reduce tobacco use, sedentary lifestyles, and poor nutrition, because change in these behaviors has been proven to help prevent and reduce cancer and cardiovascular disease, our state’s leading causes of death.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Julie Bisbee, julieb@tset.ok.gov
Direct: 405-521-4992
Cell: 405-301-3693

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The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) serves as a partner and bridge builder for organizations working towards shaping a healthier future for all Oklahomans. TSET provides leadership at the intersections of health by working with local coalitions and initiatives 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.