It could soon cost more to smoke in Oklahoma

Tuesday, October 2nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

When it comes to health, Oklahoma ranks 44th out of 50 states, the reason is because so many of us smoke. For the first time ever, the state is fighting back, with an all-out blitz to get people to kick the habit.

News on Six reporter Lori Fullbright explains part of that plan could add a dollar to each pack of cigarettes. Joe Reed started smoking in high school and didn't stop for 35 years, smoking between two and four packs a day, until he kept getting sick, then, short of breath. "I recall having trouble blowing the whiskers out of my electric razor. I had no breath." Reed says, like all smokers, he never thought he'd be the one to get sick, but, he did, with only half his lungs working, his life now revolves around drawing a breath. "Grandkids, I'm a little leery of watching grandkids without anyone else around. I can do a lot of things. If one of them took off, I don't catch them quickly, I won't catch them at all." Reed's been going to St John's Pulmonary Rehab program three times a week for six years, he hopes the state's plan can get young people to stop before they need such critical intervention. Leslie Beitsch, OK Commissioner of Health: "Abuse of tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death." The attack is a four-part plan. To get an additional dollar excise tax on every pack of cigarettes. To suspend the license of any convenience store owner selling tobacco to minors. To allow tougher city laws and get many more smoke free public places. Reed supports anything that will save someone else from his fate. "All the pleasure I thought I was having with cigarettes wasn't worth one day of this." Reed says he knows it's hard to quit smoking, but says it's even harder, dying a slow, agonizing death. State leaders say since the state's tobacco settlement money is in an endowment fund and only part of the interest can be spent on prevention, it could take a decade to get enough money for an all-out campaign. However, with 400-million packs of cigarettes sold in Oklahoma each year, the dollar excise tax would raise money immediately.