Oklahoma adult smoking rate drops to all-time low; obesity rate also declines

Posted on: 9/6/17

Adult smoking in Oklahoma has decreased to 19.6 percent in the latest Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) report, reaching an all-time low and showing proof that focused efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use are paying off. The lower rate means the number of adult smokers dropped by almost 72,000 between 2015 and 2016 alone. That decrease from 22.1 percent has moved Oklahoma’s ranking to 36th among the 50 states, an improvement of nine spots over the previous year. Oklahoma’s smoking rate among adults is still above the national average of 17.1 percent.  

“This is great news and reflects the hard work of individuals, businesses and communities across the state. Each lowered percentage point represents lives saved from the people we know, and people we care about and love,” said Dr. Terry Cline, Cabinet secretary of health and human services and commissioner of the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

OHA member hospitals and clinics partner with OHA’s Hospitals Helping Patients Quit (HHPQ) initiative to ensure patients receive lifesaving tobacco cessation services. Since the initiative began in 2009, hospitals and clinics have collectively referred more than 20,000 tobacco users to the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline (OTH). Through effective, best practice, health care provider driven treatment services, including proactive fax and electronic referrals to the OTH, it is estimated that HHPQ partner hospitals and clinics have saved more than 15,000 years of life and millions of dollars in reduced health care costs as well as personal spending on tobacco products. The initiative is funded by the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust with support from the Oklahoma State Department of Health. For more information, click here.

“We must continue efforts that prevent smoking,” said Gov. Mary Fallin. “These efforts are as important to achieving a healthy workforce and economy as they are a healthy population. I want to thank Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET), OSDH and all the community partners for their efforts and ask them to keep up the good work.” 

The improvement in adult smoking validates independent research that indicates TSET investments in grants and programs to reduce smoking have caused Oklahoma’s smoking rate to drop 10 times faster than similar states.

“The public supports implementing a $1.50 per pack cigarette tax increase and reducing exposure to smoke in indoor public places,” said Cline. “Raising the price of cigarettes that amount will prevent 16,700 lives from ending prematurely due to smoking-related illnesses and save $1.2 billion in long term health care costs. Now that is a common sense, no cost solution to improve our health and save lives.”

The BRFSS report also shows that obesity rates among adults in Oklahoma dropped for the first time since 2011. Oklahoma’s obesity rate dropped by more than one percentage point, bucking a national trend that showed a slight uptick in overall adult obesity. The decrease in Oklahoma is encouraging, but still leaves the state almost three percent higher than the national average.

OHA’s WorkHealthy Hospitals initiative provides participating hospitals support in developing and implementing infrastructure changes to form an organizational culture of wellbeing to improve employee health. WHH has worked with more than 40 hospitals, impacting over 20,000 employees statewide. WHH is also funded by TSET. For more information, click here

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