The impact that smoking has on Oklahoma amounts to about $1 billion in medical expenses and almost $2 billion in lost productivity, according to a report released Friday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its annual Tobacco Control State Highlights report on Friday, noting that billions of dollars and thousands of lives are lost each year to smoking and smoking-related illnesses.
Tobacco is a major contributor to many of the leading causes of death in Oklahoma, including heart attacks, cancer, strokes and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), said Jennifer Mullens, who works in tobacco prevention at the state Health Department.
“If we were to reduce the smoking prevalence in the state, it would logically follow that we would see positive declines in these smoking-related illnesses, which are responsible for the vast majority of deaths in our state,” Mullens said.
The report notes that 26 states and the District of Columbia have passed comprehensive smoke-free laws.
Although many local governments have implemented “strong smoke-free laws, there are still 24 states that provide inadequate protection from secondhand smoke exposure,” according to the report.
The Oklahoma Board of Health has made an anti-smoking bill its No. 1 priority this legislative session.
If passed, Senate Bill 36 would allow cities in Oklahoma to pass their own laws regarding smoking in public places.
Oklahoma law currently bans cities from passing laws stricter than state law.
Tobacco use continues to be the single most preventable cause of death and disease in the United States, according to the CDC.
Each year, about 443,000 people die from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million suffer from a serious smoking-related illness, according to the CDC's latest report.
Costs associated with smoking-related illness amount to about $96 billion in medical expenses, $97 billion in lost productivity, and 5.1 million years of potential life lost in the United States annually, according to the CDC.
Mullens said Oklahoma has more former smokers than current smokers, a shift in the state's makeup over the past several years.
“But we do understand it's very difficult for a person to quit, and it might take a person more than one try,” she said.
To get help
Jennifer Mullens said Oklahoma residents wanting to quit smoking can call (800) 784-8669 for information on available resources.