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Positive Policy Measures Emerge from Legislative Session

TSET Executive Director John Woods

While the budget dominated much of the legislative session that ended in May, lawmakers made great strides in passing laws that include solid public policy measures to improve health and create a healthier state.

Lawmakers approved a smoking cessation policy package that keeps all state-owned and leased properties tobacco free, ensures Oklahomans are educated about the dangers of secondhand smoke and increases the price of a pack of cigarettes. These measures would reduce smoking in our state, increase quit attempts and save lives. Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disability in our state, and a meaningful increase in the price of cigarettes is a proven way to reduce smoking and prevent young people from starting.  

In June, two of the nation’s largest tobacco companies and a handful of retailers asked the State Supreme Court to examine the new law, which takes effect in August. As challenge works its way through the court, TSET grants and programs continue support tobacco-free environments, encourage Oklahomans to quit and offer free quit coaching through the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline (1-800-QUIT-NOW).

Our mission at TSET is to improve the health of all Oklahomans, and prevent the leading causes of death in our state, cancer, heart disease and stroke. Many of our programs focus on preventing and reducing tobacco use, but we also know that if we want to reduce preventable deaths in our state, we also have to tackle obesity by increasing opportunities for physical activity, improving nutrition and giving Oklahomans the information they need to make healthy choices for themselves and their families.

Leveraging public and private dollars to increase access to fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods is the goal of two new laws that take effect Nov. 1. Senate Bill 506 and Senate Bill 749 creates two new funds that would be administered by the State Department of Agriculture to help attract public and private dollars for improving access to fresh fruits and vegetables through creative financing for grocery stores, corner stores and community gardens. 

In Oklahoma, more than half of residents ate less than 1 serving of fruit in a day, and Oklahomans are lucky to eat more than one vegetable in a day, according to data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an annual survey on health.

Our daily choices and behaviors make up the largest proportion of factors that influence our overall health. Health behaviors make up 40 percent of our health, more than genetics, more than social circumstances, and more than access to health care.

We look forward to supporting the implementation of these positive policy measures as we continue to strive toward improved health for all Oklahomans.