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Oklahoma smoking rates decline faster than other states due to TSET effort

Adult smoking rates in Oklahoma are plunging 10 times faster than smoking rates in comparable states, according to a new study by researchers at two major universities.

Researchers found that efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use funded by the voter-approved Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) are primarily responsible for the state's rapid decline in adult smoking. The study was conducted by researchers at the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and the College of Public Health at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

Since 2006, grants and programs funded by TSET have helped save more than 42,280 lives and more than $1.24 billion in medical costs have been avoided. Oklahoma has 126,900 fewer current smokers as a result of TSET’s efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use, according to data analysis from the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the study’s researchers.

“With TSET, Oklahoma has been able to make targeted and sustained investments in the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, public education campaigns and grants at the local level that support tobacco-free environments,” said Dr. Laura Beebe, a co-author of the study. “This comprehensive, sustained approach is clearly making a difference, saving lives and reducing the burden of tobacco on Oklahoma.”

Study credits TSET efforts

Researchers compared the decline in Oklahoma’s adult smoking rates with those of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana and Tennessee. From 2006 to 2014, Oklahoma's adult smoking rate smoking fell 0.5 percent annually, while its peer group declined by 0.05 percent per year.

This tenfold higher rate of decrease suggests that TSET's efforts have had a positive impact on adult smoking prevalence in Oklahoma, researchers concluded.

The peer group was established using two criteria: cigarette excise taxes and the percentage of a state's population covered by the Clean Air Act, which protects residents from secondhand smoke. Both factors, the price of cigarettes and public policy, increase the number of smoke-free locations protecting citizens from secondhand smoke and support smokers who want to quit or have quit.

By comparing similar states, the substantial decline in adult smoking rates in Oklahoma can be attributed to, the evidence-based state and local tobacco control efforts funded primarily by TSET, according to the study.

TSET programs confront deadly habits

TSET was formed in 2000, when Oklahoma voters amended the state constitution to create an endowment trust to set aside a portion of the annual payment to Oklahoma as part of the Master Settlement Agreement with Big Tobacco. The investment of the endowment funds are overseen by an appointed board of investors. Only the earnings from the endowment are used to fund grants and programs overseen by an appointed board of directors.

The mission of TSET is to reduce tobacco use and obesity, the two preventable risk factors that can lead to cancer, heart disease and stroke. These diseases are the cause of more than half of all deaths in Oklahoma each year.

Since its inception, TSET has developed three highly visible public health education interventions: the Oklahoma Tobacco HelplineTobacco Stops With Me and Shape Your Future. Each program educates Oklahomans on healthy choices and provides resources and support to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

Grants and programs in hospitals, schools, communities and other organizations create an environment where Oklahomans have the opportunity for healthy options.
TSET also funds cancer research, and grants and programs to recruit, train and retain physicians for rural areas, bringing additional resources and access to preventive screenings to parts of the state with some of the worst health outcomes.

"We have one focus," said John Woods, TSET executive director. "That's saving lives and improving the health of all Oklahomans. TSET’s investment in innovative initiatives, research, local grants and public health interventions are positively impacting Oklahomans.”

“We will continue to innovate, improve and expand our efforts until the toll of tobacco is reduced and Oklahoma citizens are reaping the benefits of better health now and for generations to come," he added.

To learn more about TSET and its public health initiatives, visit tset.ok.gov.