Thursday, April 23, 2009

Deadly cost of smoking in Oklahoma

Deadly cost of smoking in Oklahoma

Gary Raskob and Ken Lackey: A smoking prevalence of almost one in four Oklahomans is still too high.

Published: 4/23/2009  2:26 AM
Last Modified: 4/23/2009  4:09 AM

New numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show the deadly impact of cigarette smoking in Oklahoma.

When the period of 2000-2004 is compared to 1996-1999, Oklahoma is the only state that failed to see a decrease in smoking-attributable mortality — the deaths caused by smoking. In fact, Oklahoma had an increase of 26.9 deaths per 100,000 people. Women in our state do worse than men, with twice as many smoking-related deaths.

Cigarette smoking causes an estimated 443,000 premature deaths each year in this country, with 6,209 of these deaths in Oklahoma. That's 85,208 years of potential life lost by Oklahomans. The direct health-care and productivity losses caused by cigarette smoking are staggering: $193 billion each year nationwide, and more than $2 billion in Oklahoma.

The tobacco companies continue aggressive efforts to help ensure a steady stream of new smokers. Their marketing spending topped $13 billion in 2005, nearly double their spending of a decade earlier and almost twice the entire budget for the CDC.

Some important strides have been taken in the right direction. The voter-approved state tobacco tax increase that took effect in 2005 has begun to have an impact, with the prevalence of smoking declining from 26.1 percent of Oklahomans in 2004 to 24.7 percent in 2008.

Private business has also shown leadership, with many providing positive incentives for their employees to quit smoking. The business community understands that a healthier workforce
leads to reduced health-care and workers compensation costs and higher worker productivity.

However, a smoking prevalence of almost one in four Oklahomans is still too high — more than double the CDC's Healthy People 2010 goal. It is time for us to pledge to do more!

Federal data for 1985 through 2003 show states with higher expenditures for tobacco-use prevention programs had greater reductions in adult smoking prevalence.

The non-partisan Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that substantial and enduring reductions in tobacco use depend on federal and state government steps to increase tobacco excise taxes, enact bans on smoking in public places, and increase health coverage for effective smoking cessation interventions. It called for full implementation of comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation programs at CDC-recommended funding levels.

Oklahoma should heed the IOM recommendations, which are based on scientific evidence.

Strengthening tobacco use prevention will decrease unnecessary premature loss of life, lower health-care costs, and have a positive impact on business competitiveness for our state.
Gary Raskob, Ph.D., is dean of the College of Public Health, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Ken Lackey is chairman of the board of NORDAM.

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