Ending the Smokescreen: An Update on Our 10-year Plan To Battle Big Tobacco
In 2018, Tobacco Stops With Me unveiled a seven-point plan to drastically reduce smoking in Oklahoma. By implementing proven, effective policies for tobacco control and prevention, we aimed to save Oklahoma from the clutches of Big Tobacco. Here’s an update on our progress:
DONE: Raising the Minimum Legal Age to Buy Tobacco Products to 21
For decades, Big Tobacco has targeted kids. In 2019, legislators struck a decisive blow against the industry’s youth recruitment strategy. The U.S. Congress passed a law raising the minimum age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21. This is a huge win for public health and will protect Oklahoma’s youth from tobacco’s devastating health impacts.
PROGRESS MADE: Banning Menthol and Flavored Tobacco
Flavors are a key strategy for luring and hooking first-time tobacco users. Now, the tide is starting to turn. In 2020, the FDA banned the sale of cartridge-based vapes in both menthol and flavored varieties. In April of 2021, the FDA announced its intention to ban menthol in cigarettes and all added flavors in cigars within one year. Every ounce of progress against flavors is a victory in the battle to reduce smoking rates. Eliminating flavored tobacco protects children, who are the primary target of Big Tobacco’s flavoring strategy.
ONGOING: Cigarette Tax Increase
In 2018, Oklahoma lawmakers raised cigarette taxes by $1 per pack, bringing the state tax tobacco tax to $2.03 per pack. In that year alone, cigarette sales dropped by about 60 million packs from the previous year. Tobacco tax increases are a proven policy tool for reducing tobacco consumption and encouraging users to quit. The cigarette tax increase represents an ongoing victory for the health of current and future Oklahomans.
ONGOING: Strengthening Enforcement Against Underage Tobacco Sales
Retail locations are a key battleground in the fight to protect kids from tobacco Unfortunately, we’ve still got work to do in Oklahoma. In 2018, 83 stores were cited for selling tobacco to underage minors — but no licenses were suspended. In 2021, enforcement checks in Tulsa and Oklahoma City revealed decreasing compliance with tobacco age restrictions by retailers. In many instances, cashiers checked the ID, only to sell restricted products to minors. If we’re going to protect Oklahoma’s youth from addiction, we need everyone to buy in. That includes retailers.
ONGOING: Removing Smokers as a Protected Class of Employees
Federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on race, religion, gender and other factors. It says nothing about tobacco use — but thanks to an Oklahoma law passed in the 1990s, smokers are recognized as a protected class of employees. This restricts employers’ ability to support a smokefree workplace. The cost? Nearly $6,000 in lost productivity and higher insurance premiums for every employee who smokes. If Oklahoma truly cares about employers — and workers — it’s time to remove smokers as a protected employment class.
ONGOING: Prohibiting smoking in cars with children present
In Oklahoma, it’s still legal to smoke with kids in the car — but public opinion is changing. 83% of Oklahomans favor a law that bans smoking in vehicles when children 16 or younger are present. The groundswell of support isn’t lost on state lawmakers. If similar laws in Louisiana and Arkansas are any indication, Oklahoma may finally protect its children from being trapped in smoky cars.
ONGOING: 100% Clean Indoor Air
While Oklahoma is one of the only states that lacks comprehensive clean air legislation, the legal landscape is changing across the nation. 27 states now have 100% smokefree indoor air laws for bars, restaurants, and worksites. 77% of Oklahomans now favor a law making all public places smokefree. The battle isn’t over, but Oklahomans are making their voices heard. With your support, Oklahoma can continue making strides toward clean indoor air for everyone.
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