Rise in Cigarette Prices Will Save Payne County Lives

by Julie Bisbee, Director of Public Information and Outreach, Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Trust

The price increase on cigarettes signed by Gov. Mary Fallin on March 29th will save lives, help smokers quit, and keep young people from starting smoking. In Payne County, 17.4% of people smoke cigarettes.

Fallin signed into law a $1 per cigarette pack price increase as part of a historic revenue package approved by the Legislature on March 29, 2018. The price increase, which will take effect later this summer, will prevent 10,200 smoking-related deaths and keep 17,300 young people from starting down a deadly path of addiction in Oklahoma.

“Future generations of Oklahomans will benefit from this price increase passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Fallin,” said TSET Executive Director John Woods. “This is a win for our state and will help reduce the toll of tobacco on our families, our state, our businesses, and our state’s health care system.”

The new law also taxes little cigars like cigarettes. This is a positive policy that will end the disparity in taxes between cigarettes and little cigars, which will not only help smokers quit, but also prevent young people from starting, as little cigars are often flavored and more attractive to younger smokers.

As the state prepares for this price increase to take effect, the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) will continue to provide FREE assistance to those thinking about quitting tobacco, including text and email support; phone and web coaching; and a two-week supply of patches, gum, or lozenges for registered participants. Spikes in callers to the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline were significant after previous increases in cigarette prices.

“The next few months are a great time to think about quitting smoking,” Woods said. “TSET is ready to assist Oklahomans in their efforts to quit smoking. While we likely will see increased cost to provide services to more Oklahomans during this time, the benefit of lives saved and long-term costs avoided is immeasurable.”  

The long-term savings from avoided costs from the $1 per cigarette pack price increase tops $767 million, according to the American Cancer Society. Smoking in Oklahoma causes $1.62 billion in health care costs, and each Oklahoma household – whether smoking or not – pays $815 a year in taxes to offset smoking-related costs to the government.

Smoking kills 7,500 Oklahomans each year, more than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined. For every one person who dies from a smoking, thirty more live with a serious smoking-related illness.

TSET programs are funded by the earnings from the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, created by voters to ensure the majority of funds from a lawsuit settlement with the tobacco industry are used to improve health. TSET does not receive any proceeds from tobacco tax increases. TSET’s programs focus on reducing cancer and cardiovascular disease by preventing and reducing tobacco use and obesity.