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February 7th, 2016:

Anti-tobacco groups praise proposed tobacco tax increase

Anti-smoking and anti-tobacco groups are lauding the governor’s plan to increase the state tobacco tax by $1.50.

“The governor’s proposed $1.50 tobacco tax increase has the potential to greatly improve the public health of the people of Oklahoma,” said the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, in the response to the governor’s plan. “Tobacco use remains the No. 1 preventable cause of death in Oklahoma and costs the state an estimated $1.62 billion annually in associated health care costs.

“Significantly increasing the price of tobacco is proven to be one of the most effective ways to prompt adults to quit smoking and prevent kids from ever starting. In fact, a $1.50 per pack tax increase is estimated to prevent nearly 32,000 Oklahoma kids from starting smoking, prompt nearly as many adults to quit and prevent approximately 18,000 tobacco-related deaths.”

While those agencies are hoping the additional revenue will be used for health related programs, Fallin touted the $181.6 million as a means of closing the gap between state expenses and revenues. How much of that money would be channeled toward public health is unclear.

“We appreciate this important first step toward reducing Oklahoma’s tobacco burden and look forward to learning more details about the plan,” the agencies said.

Meanwhile, the American Lung Association released its 14th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report this week, saying Oklahoma failed to enact tobacco control policies that would save lives.

The report also finds Oklahoma is not alone, as most states and the federal government earned poor grades, and the high level of youth use of tobacco products other than cigarettes threatens to undermine the United States’ overall progress in the fight against tobacco-caused death and disease, according to the official press release.

“Oklahoma is missing a clear opportunity to save lives by not taking action to prevent and reduce tobacco use. We must also face the reality that youth use of other tobacco products nationwide like e-cigarettes and little cigars is at an all-time high,” said Jeremy Hughey, executive director of the American Lung Association in Oklahoma. “Nearly a quarter of high school students are using tobacco products, and it is crucial that Oklahoma take aggressive action to reduce all tobacco use …”

The “State of Tobacco Control” report evaluates tobacco control policies at the state and federal level and assigns grades based on whether laws protect residents from the toll tobacco use takes on lives.

Oklahoma received the following grades:

  • Tobacco Prevention and Control Program Funding – C
  • Tobacco Taxes — F
  • Smoke-free Air — D
  • Access to Cessation Services — B

The report also looked at secondhand smoke protections in workplaces. Oklahoma is one of the 22 states that has yet to fully protect its residents from secondhand smoke.

“It’s long past time for Oklahoma to act and pass a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law,” Hughey said. “No one should have to face the harmful effects of secondhand smoke to earn a paycheck.”

Smoking ban enforced at Confucius tourist attractions sites

Three venues – the Temple, the Family Mansion and the Cemetery of Confucius (551-479 BC), have banned smoking.

The new ban is also applied to the gate towers, ancient trees, ticket offices and some enclosed areas, said the administration of cultural heritage in Qufu City, where the three venues are located.

Born in what is today Qufu, of Shandong Province, Confucius founded the school of thought that became known as Confucianism. He is believed to be the first person to have set up private schools in China.

UNESCO World Heritage sites, the three spots host around four million visitors each year.

Ancient Chinese architects used a lot of wood instead of stone to build houses, temples and gardens, so these buildings are fire risks.

The three tourist attractions are also home to 10,270 ancients trees.

China is yet to have national legislation on smoking in public places, but to date 16 cities have bylaws on tobacco control.