30,000 Oklahomans quit smoking after tax hike

Saturday, August 6th 2005, 6:44 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ More than 30,000 Oklahomans have quit smoking since the state's 55-cents-per-pack hike in the state cigarette tax went into effect.

Oklahoma Tax Commission figures released Friday show total cigarette sales during the first six months of the year _ both nontribal and tribal sales _ are down 15 percent, or about 4.4 million fewer packs sold per month.

The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust also reported that Oklahoma's toll-free tobacco cessation helpline has registered an increase in calls during the time period from 2,746 calls to 12,467 calls.

``Not only are more Oklahomans quitting smoking, many who still smoke are smoking less and are making more quit attempts,'' Health Commissioner Dr. Mike Crutcher said.

``We think many Oklahomans are desperate to quit and desperately want help,'' said Tracy Strader, trust executive director.

Preliminary results from the 2005 Oklahoma Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System show that smokers decreased from 26.1 percent of the Oklahoma population in 2004 to 24.4 percent the first six months of 2005.

Smokers who have tried to quit smoking the past year increased from 52 percent in 2004 to 54 percent the first six months of 2005, according to the figures.

Crutcher said the findings are largely credited to the tobacco-tax increase that state voters approved in November 2004. The increase went into effect Jan. 1.

Oklahoma was one of 11 states to pass a tax increase for 2005. Colorado raised its state tax on a pack of cigarettes to 84 cents.

The Oklahoma smoking-cessation numbers ``are incredibly good news for Oklahoma,'' said Cassandra Welch, a spokeswoman for the American Lung Association.

Jennifer Golisch, a spokeswoman for cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris USA, declined to comment specifically on the report because officials had had not seen it.

``However, we believe that public health objectives such as reduced initiation, increased cessation and youth smoking prevention can be effectively advanced with programs that directly address those goals without the unintended consequences associated with excessive taxation,'' Golisch said.