State health officials have advocated for at least five years that the Oklahoma Legislature pass a bill that would allow cities to pass their own smoking ordinances. Current Oklahoma law does not allow cities to pass smoking laws stricter than state law.
Terry Cline, the state health commissioner, has been an outspoken advocate of the bill.
Cline said the American Cancer Society report is a reminder that the Legislature has the power to affect cancer rates in Oklahoma.
“(The report) validates the intervention that we, from the public health perspective, have been promoting and what science tells us,” he said. “If you do these things, you can be bring these rates down and literally save lives. The Legislature has chosen to ignore the science, and as a result, we have way too many people who are dying, 8,000 people every year who are dying from the No. 1 preventable cause of death.”
In Oklahoma, as the level of education increases, the percentage of smokers decrease:
• Less than high school: 37 percent
• High school: 31 percent
• Some college: 26 percent
• College: 11 percent.
Meanwhile, in 2010, cancer in Oklahoma accounted for almost 12,000 hospital discharges, totaling 79,145 total days in the hospital. That amounts to $638 million, according to the state Health Department.
Cline said Oklahoma has seen some progress, with the state recently ranking No. 39 nationwide in smoking prevalence, the lowest the rate has been in several years.
“We're seeing progress, but I would say, 8,000 deaths a year is still too high, and we still have 23 percent of our population smoking, engaging in the No. 1 preventable cause of death,” he said. “That's what needs to change, and every year we don't address that, we have way too many people dying unnecessarily.”