Oregon, Oklahoma voters weigh in on tobacco control measures on the ballot

Voters in Oregon and Oklahoma have voted in favor of public health, Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, said Wednesday.

In Tuesday’s general election, voters in Oregon passed a measure that would increase tobacco taxes, while voters in Oklahoma defeated a measure that would have diverted funds from tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

“Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death nationwide and is linked to at least 13 types of cancer. Reducing use of this deadly product is critical to our mission to end suffering and death from this disease,” Lacasse said in a press release. “Given the industry’s known targeting of people with lower incomes, Black communities, American Indians, youth, and LGBTQ individuals, tobacco control efforts are also crucial to reduce cancer disparities in this country. That’s why ACS CAN actively worked to pass Measure 108 in Oregon to increase tobacco taxes and to defeat State Question 814 in Oklahoma that would divert funds dedicated to tobacco prevention and cessation.”

In Oregon, Measure 108 raised the state’s cigarette tax by $2 per pack and taxed e-cigarettes for the first time in the state. Voters approved the measure 66 percent to 34 percent.

The measure raises the tax on a pack of cigarettes from $1.33 to $3.33 and creates an entirely new 65 percent tax on e-cigarettes. Proponents of the plan say the tax will generate about $160 million per year. About 90 percent of those funds would go to the Oregon Health Authority for medical assistance for Oregonians, including mental health services. The OHA would distribute the remaining 10 percent to tribal health providers, urban Indian health programs, regional health equity coalitions, and other culturally or community specific health programs for tobacco cessation and prevention programs, as well as medical treatment for tobacco-related health problems.

“Research shows significantly increasing the tobacco tax is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use – and, as a result, tobacco-related disease, including cancer. Oregon will dedicate a portion of the additional revenue from these taxes to fund crucial tobacco prevention and cessation programs to help those who the tax increase will encourage to quit do so successfully,” Lacasse said. “With Big Tobacco spending nearly $116.2 million in Oregon each year in marketing to lure new customers into a lifetime of addiction, Oregonians action to loosen Big Tobacco’s grip in their state is a major public health victory.”

In Oklahoma, State Question 814, if passed, would have allowed the state legislature to divert funds away from the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust fund that the state receives from tobacco settlements and to use that money to secure matching funds from the federal government for the state’s Medicaid program.

“The Tobacco Settlement Endowment (TSET) is key to a healthier Oklahoma. The program supports medically underserved areas by recruiting talented physicians through its loan repayment program, funding health care for rural Oklahomans, as well as supports critical cancer research happening locally in Oklahoma,” Lacasse said. “TSET also operates the state’s Quitline, which is one of the highest-rated Quitlines in the nation and has served more than 400,000 Oklahomans looking for help to quit tobacco.”

The measure was defeated 59 percent opposed to 41 percent in favor.

Liz Carey

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