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Oklahoma smoking rate reaches historic low

Fewer Oklahomans light up now but the state smoking average of 23.7 percent is still higher than the national average of 20.6 percent
BY SONYA COLBERG scolberg@opubco.com Published: October 12, 2011
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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-ish culture ... one of strong individual rights. And I'm one of those. It takes quite an effort to change the culture in our state,” she said.

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.

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