Fewer Oklahomans are lighting up.
Health statistics show the state had 100,000 fewer adult smokers from 2001 to 2010, according to a survey analysis released Tuesday.
At a time when Oklahoma often comes out on the wrong end of studies and surveys, the executive director of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust said she and other health authorities are encouraged by the results.
“It's a wonderful day. I hoped we would see this day,” said Tracey Strader, executive director of the organization.
In 2001, the adult smoking rate in the state was 28.7 percent. The rate dropped to a new low of 23.7 percent in 2010. That's a total of 668,700 adult smokers.
“We've had years and years of trending up in smoking. So it's great to see it trending down,” state Health Commissioner Terry Cline said.
Oklahoma is beginning to experience a slight shift in attitude toward smoking, Strader said.
“Oklahoma has a very frontier-
Anti-smoking funding began with the 1998 settlement with tobacco companies. Earnings have grown over the years to a high of $17.8 million in fiscal year 2010. The money has funded health education campaigns, smoking cessation services and policies that Strader said have picked up steam over the years.
However, the state's new smoking average is about 3 percent higher than the national average of 20.6 percent.
“We have a long way to go,” Strader said. “We know the formula. We know what needs to be done and we need to keep applying pressure. We've had to go about this one community, one business and one school at a time. But we've been building momentum with each passing year.”
If Oklahoma could achieve the same rate as the national average, another 100,000 Oklahomans could live healthier, smoke-free lives, Cline said.
“Smoking is the number one preventable cause of death in Oklahoma,” he said. “So this is going to translate to improved quality of life for many Oklahomans.”
About 5,800 Oklahomans die yearly as a result of smoking. Survey results on youth tobacco use will be released later, a state Health Department spokeswoman said.