State Health Commissioner Terry Cline remembers when you could smoke just about anywhere you wanted to.
Restaurants, airplanes, office buildings, movie theatres — even in church.
But society has seen an overall cultural shift in where smoking is considered acceptable, and in 2033, Cline expects to see a smoke-free Oklahoma.
“As (smoking is) the largest contributor to cardiovascular deaths in our state, that will make a huge difference — 6,000 lives that we’re losing each year,” Cline said. “Kids now in 20 years will be raising their kids in a tobacco-free environment, and that will have a phenomenal improvement in overall health.”
For the past several months, members of the state Board of Health, an entity charged with making decisions about the health of Oklahoma residents, have repeatedly explained what impact they believe smoking has on the state.
In a state Board of Health meeting in April of last year, Dr. Jenny Alexopulos said the state Legislature’s lack of action on a bill that would have changed Oklahoma smoking laws meant more Oklahomans would die from smoking.
“This development will have the very unfortunate consequence of slowing down our fight against the efforts and the effects of tobacco on the people of Oklahoma,” then-board President Alexopulos said. “These include heart disease, lung disease, cancer, peripheral vascular disease — the list goes on. There will continue to be many lives lost as a result of this, on the order of approximately 6,000 Oklahomans per year.”
Alexopulos was referring to House Bill 2267, which would have allowed local governments to adopt ordinances to control smoking in public places.
Oklahoma and Tennessee are the only states that have laws restricting cities from passing tobacco laws stricter than the state law, according to the state Health Department.
The Health Department attempted to pass the same bill this session, but with no success.
Gov. Mary Fallin voiced support for the bill in February during her State of the State address.
After the bill failed to pass through the Legislature, she announced she would lead an initiative petition drive that could bring the smoking law to a vote of the people.
Oklahoma has long had some of the worst health rankings in the nation, with high rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes, and poor mental health.
Benefit of initiatives
Dr. Murali Krishna, the state Board of Health president, said a number of positive things are happening that could have long-term benefits on the future of the state’s health.
For example, since 2003, more than 1,000 Oklahoma businesses have received the state Health Department’s Certified Healthy Oklahoma award for their efforts to improve employee, customer and community health.
“That has ... what has happened that has been encouraging to me, to see our own city and our own state institute a number of initiatives to get where we need to be individually and collectively,” Krishna said.
Krishna, president of Integris Mental Health, said Oklahoma must do a better job of providing help for people on all levels of health. The mind cannot be healthy without a healthy physical body, and vice versa, he said.
If a person is full of anger, guilt or prolonged grief, the body ages faster, and health deteriorates more rapidly, he said.
“On the contrary, if your mind is in (a) reasonably happy, calm, content state with a sense of acceptance, confidence and calmness, then the opposite happens,” he said.
“The aging process is slowed down. It’s very scientific. It happens in every cell of the body. It’s so helpful in understanding that we’ve got to treat the whole mind and the body in its totality.”