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Outlook 2013: Improving health trends in Oklahoma takes long-term planning

Passing legislation to curb smoking in Oklahoma has been the goal of the state Board of Health for the past year. Health advocates argue that cutting smoking rates in Oklahoma could have a big impact on Oklahoma’s overall health.

by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: April 28, 2013

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.

Legislative action

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.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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