Tobacco use and its effects remain a top issue facing Oklahomans and their physicians. Each month, I treat hundreds who suffer greatly after years of progressive injury related to nicotine and tobacco smoke exposure. In surgery, on hospital rounds, and in the office, my patients, students, and trainees are reminded of the firm and incontrovertible statistics of tobacco-related morbidity and mortality in our country. Heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, and stroke consistently remain as the top causes of death of which tobacco is the most powerful contributing risk. As important is that tobacco-related diseases represent the most common preventable cause of premature death and disability.
Oklahoma is at the precipice of a great fiscal chasm. With our current federal administration offering inconsistent and at times contradictory solutions, we cannot rely only upon them for subsistence and have to begin here at home with practical solutions which choose the right over the political. I refuse to acquiesce to a habit or indulge “the choice” that continues to cause pain and suffering to millions each day. It is time that our legislators and the tobacco-subsidized special interest groups stop using the health of our people as a bargaining chip. Increasing the price of tobacco products has proven to be the single-most effective tool in keeping kids from picking up the habit. As such, raising the state’s tax on cigarettes by $1.50 per pack will not only help fund our state’s ongoing health needs, it will save lives by ensuring younger Oklahomans do not become addicted to these deadly products.
Through committed efforts between physicians and our elected representatives, we can affect good legislation aimed at the well-being of all Oklahomans.