Oklahoma Medical Community Endorses 'Step Up' Oklahoma Plan

Oklahoma City (Jan. 29, 2018) -- The leadership of Oklahoma’s leading medical physician organizations endorsed the goals of the Step Up Oklahoma plan and called on lawmakers to act quickly to address the state’s ongoing budget needs. They particularly pointed to the benefit of the proposed $1.50 cigarette tax.

“Oklahomans are increasingly frustrated by the continued partisan bickering which negatively impacted the last legislative session and threatens to derail any future progress,” said Oklahoma Osteopathic Association President Kenneth Calabrese, D.O. “It is past time for the Legislature to pass a plan that stabilizes our budget situation and ensures access to quality health care for Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Oklahoma State Medical Association President Kevin Taubman, M.D. further pointed to the health benefits passing the cigarette tax would bring. “Tobacco remains the single greatest contributor to death and poor health outcomes in our state. Increasing the price is the single most effective way to both reduce the prevalence of smoking and also prevent new smoking. If we prevent kids from ever taking up the habit, we will begin to meaningfully address the number one cause of preventable death in our state. Simply put, passing this measure will save lives,” Dr. Taubman said.

At the current rate, 88,000 Oklahoma youth will die prematurely from a smoking-related disease. Studies show a $1.50 per pack increase would prevent nearly 32,000 Oklahoma children from becoming adult smokers and reduce overall consumption of cigarettes by 26 million packs in the first year. The increase would also reduce adult smoking rates by 4 percent, or by nearly 30,000 Oklahomans.

Physician groups speaking out today in favor of the cigarette tax included:

  • Oklahoma State Medical Association
  • Oklahoma Osteopathic Association
  • Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians
  • Oklahoma Academy of Ophthalmology
  • Oklahoma Psychiatric Physicians Association
  • Oklahoma Society of Anesthesiologists

“The Step Up Oklahoma plan is not perfect and is probably not what any one of us would have written individually,” said Art Rousseau, M.D. of the Oklahoma Psychiatric Physicians Association. “But we believe it represents a solid compromise that will place our state’s budget on a solid footing and address Oklahoma’s health needs.”

Ben Harvey, M.D., president of the Oklahoma Academy of Ophthalmology added, “We truly hope the Legislature will give this plan serious consideration and move forward in an effort to address the long-term needs of our state.”