Why TSET’s Work Matters More Than Ever
This year, a global pandemic has changed every aspect of all of our lives. Even in the face of these new challenges, the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) continues to strive to make our state a healthier place for ALL Oklahomans.
We know that those with compromised immune systems, or with underlying health conditions like diabetes, heart disease or lung disease, are at greater risk for COVID complications. Tobacco use contributes to all of those health problems, which makes TSET’s work in prevention more important than ever.
Even in an ever-changing environment, Oklahoma continues to make progress in enacting tobacco control measures and protecting children, workers and all residents from the dangers of tobacco.
Tobacco-Free Youth Act
In May, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed legislation raising Oklahoma’s tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21 into law. The bill ensures Oklahoma statutes align with the federal Tobacco-Free Youth Act signed by President Donald Trump in December 2019. The law prohibits the sale of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.
TSET is glad to be part of this positive change. In 2018, Tobacco Stops With Me, a program of TSET, brought attention to the need to raise the age from 18 to 21. Along with more than 40 partners, Tobacco Stops With Me created and publicized a list of seven proven tobacco control and prevention policies to inform Oklahomans about the benefits of strategies such as comprehensive smokefree places, prohibiting smoking in cars with children present and more. Tobacco 21 is the first of these to become law in Oklahoma.
Tobacco 21 laws prevent young people from becoming regular tobacco users by increasing the age to purchase – reducing the likelihood that older peers may provide access to tobacco products. Nearly 90%of smokers started before the age of 18 and 80%became daily tobacco users by age 21.
My Life, My Quit
TSET also unveiled a new program aimed directly at curbing the rise of teen vaping, My Life, My Quit is a free texting/chat program for teens 13-17 who want to quit tobacco in any form – cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vape pods or smokeless tobacco. The evidence-based cessation program offers live text support, webchat and phone coaching specifically for teens.
The program is operated by National Jewish Health, a leading respiratory hospital and the largest non-profit tobacco quitline provider in the United States. My Life, My Quit combines best practices for youth tobacco cessation adapted to include vaping and new ways to reach a coach using live text messaging or online chat. The program also includes educational materials created with input from both youth and subject matter experts.
Free The Night, also a program funded by TSET, partners with small business owners to assist in voluntarily making businesses smokefree. This year, several bars and nightclubs have gone smokefree including Edna’s and Blue Note, both in Oklahoma City, and Christie’s Bar in Altus. Oklahoma is one of the only states that still allow smoking indoors and currently does not have a law that protects workers, patrons and business owners from secondhand smoke exposure in bars. TSET is committed to working with businesses, schools, churches and municipalities to reduce the toll of tobacco on Oklahomans. Tobacco-related healthcare expenses cost every Oklahoma $545 each year, whether they smoke or not.
Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline
In April, visitors to the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline website experienced a redesigned user-friendly website that helps Oklahomans quit tobacco, live tobacco-free and reduce risks for serious health issues, including complications from COVID-19. OKhelpline.com, which provides FREE cessation services for Oklahomans, has served nearly 400,000 Oklahomans since 2003. The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline is a program of TSET.
By reducing Oklahomans’ exposure to secondhand smoke, protecting kids from the predatory marketing practices of big tobacco, and giving tobacco users the tools they need to quit, we are building a healthier Oklahoma, now and in the future. These programs will improve the lives and the health of Oklahomans for generations to come.