The Norman Transcript

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November 26, 2012

Advocates to push for tobacco control

NORMAN — Is there a better time than the weekend after Thanksgiving to start making that to-do list for getting healthier? Obviously, counting calories and portion control have to go on the list. And more exercise.

Here are some other ideas. Tobacco users, how about giving up tobacco? And lawmakers, how about giving up tobacco money? And giving cities in Oklahoma the option of crafting their own tobacco-control measures?

Tobacco use is arguably Oklahoma’s biggest health problem, and a main reason the state regularly ranks poorly on measures of health and well-being. It’s the state’s No. 1 cause of preventable death, responsible for about 6,000 deaths a year. At current usage rates, an estimated 87,000 young people will ultimately die prematurely as a result of tobacco use.

The state has made strides in recent years in protecting non-users from the hazards of secondhand smoke. But until the stranglehold that the tobacco industry has over our legislature is broken, don’t look for much more progress.

Try, try again: Despite repeated failures in the past, advocates are gearing up to push passage of a measure giving cities the right to adopt stricter tobacco-control measures than allowed by state law. Last year, House Bill 2267, which would have given cities that right, made it through the state House but didn’t advance out of a Senate committee.

Last month, members of the state Board of Health vowed to once again make local-control legislation their top priority. Also, a new website was launched detailing the tobacco industry’s lobbying efforts in Oklahoma.

The advocates have some new ammunition from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help their cause. Two cities in Oklahoma — Oklahoma City and Tulsa — were singled out in a new CDC report for their weak laws to protect the public from secondhand smoke.

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