Big Tobacco & Oklahoma: A Toxic Relationship
In a relationship, there are some red flags you should never ignore. Lying, controlling and manipulation are signs that things have gotten toxic. When it comes to Big Tobacco and Oklahoma, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Invading Your Space
Some people don’t respect boundaries. Want some personal space? Forget it. Big Tobacco is kind of like that. Everywhere you go, there they are. Tobacco companies spend $138 million marketing their deadly products each year — just in Oklahoma alone.
They flood neighborhoods with ads. They target women, teens, African Americans, military heroes and the LGBTQ+ community relentlessly. They blanket convenience store windows, send promotional texts and emails, and shamelessly discount their product to attract price-sensitive customers. Why do they do it? Big Tobacco wants Oklahomans totally focused on their addictive innovations.
An Unhealthy Obsession With Our Kids
Marketing tobacco products to minors is illegal, but that doesn’t stop tobacco companies. They’ve devoted billions of dollars to developing flavors, packaging, devices and ad placements to entice children. In convenience stores, ads are placed at children’s eye level to attract curious eyes. On social media sites like TikTok, vape sellers use hashtags like #kids to lure minors to their content. Vape flavors like Unicorn Puke, Candy Crush and Fried Ice Cream are designed for one audience only: Kids.
With a sleek marketing machine aimed at children, it’s no surprise that Oklahoma teens are becoming addicted in droves. More than 1 in 4 Oklahoma high schoolers use e-cigarettes — and 1 in 11 are current smokers. That’s vastly higher than the national average, where about 1 in 9 high schoolers use e-cigarettes and 1 in 22 are smokers.
Big Tobacco is crafty. They know it’s a lot more expensive to fight anti-tobacco ordinances in local cities and towns. So, they stationed a team of high-powered lobbyists at the state capitol — and it paid off. In 1987, Oklahoma became only the second state to enact a tobacco-related law known as “preemption.” Preemption is when a higher level of government prohibits a lower level of government from acting on an issue. That law is still in effect today.
What does that mean for local communities in Oklahoma? It’s pretty simple. Local cities and towns across the state are barred from enacting tobacco and clean air policies that are more restrictive than state law. If a community wants to ban smoking in restaurants, they can’t. If a city wants to prohibit smoking in hotel rooms, they can’t. And if a town wants to prohibit smoking in home daycares after hours? You guessed it. Big Tobacco is the ultimate control freak, and Oklahoma communities are paying the price.
It’s Time to Stop Flirting With Disaster
Big Tobacco’s crush on Oklahoma? It’s more like a crushing blow. Our citizens, our children and our communities are caught in a nightmare that never ends. But there is a way out. Together, we can break the grip of the industry that’s done us wrong.
Ready to fight back? Get tips for talking to your kids about tobacco. Find your legislator and tell them how you feel about preemption. Get free educational items for your school, business or home. Most importantly, stay in the know. Sign up for the Tobacco Stops With Me newsletter for important updates — and get free stickers while you’re at it.
Big Tobacco has mistreated Oklahoma for long enough. It’s time for this toxic relationship to end.