Committee recommends ways to reduce number of smokers

Monday, February 4th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Increasing the sales tax on cigarettes would help cut down on the number of smokers in Oklahoma, a state Health Department committee says.

The 20-member advisory committee has submitted a report to Gov. Frank Keating and legislative leaders on how to reduce the number smokers from 23.3 percent of the state's adult population to just 12 percent.

The committee didn't request a $1-per-pack increase in the state cigarette tax as Health Department leaders had previously proposed.

But the committee recommends ``an increase in state excise taxes on cigarettes by an amount sufficient to significantly reduce youth purchases of tobacco products.''

About 555,000 smokers are in Oklahoma. The Health Department reports 42 percent of high school students and 21 percent of middle school students smoke.

Other changes recommended by the committee include a prohibition on tobacco vending machines in areas accessible to minors and harsher penalties for grocery stores that sell tobacco products to those under the age of 18.

Also recommended was allowing municipalities to adopt tougher anti-tobacco ordinances, though the committee wants a statewide smoking prohibition in all work places and ``places of public access.''

Legislation allowing municipalities to adopt stricter smoking laws has failed in the past.

Another goal of the committee is tightening ordinances ``to reduce public exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.''

The committee also recommended the state negotiate new tobacco tax compacts with tribal nations.

Public forums on the ``Oklahoma State Plan for Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation'' will be held next month in Enid, Lawton, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and McAlester.