McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State news

August 19, 2013

Okla. not doing enough to fight cancer, group says

(Continued)

ENID, Okla. —

Julie Bisbee, a spokeswoman for the state agency overseeing the endowment, said Oklahoma is unique among other states because it spends the settlement money solely on health care.

"Our efforts have been very effective for the conservative amount that makes sense for Oklahoma," she said.

ACS CAN also criticizes Oklahoma for falling behind on taxing tobacco products. According to its report, Oklahoma charges an additional $1.03 per pack of cigarettes, or about two quarters less than the national average.

For comparison, Missouri only charges 17 cents in excise taxes and New York is the costliest at an extra $4.35 per pack.

By increasing taxes on cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco and other types, the report states, Oklahoma policy makers can save lives, reduce health care costs and generate much-needed revenue.

"Evidence clearly shows that raising tobacco prices through regular and significant tax rate increases encourages tobacco users to quit or cut down their usage and helps prevent kids from ever starting to smoke," the study states.

Oklahoma also has not raised taxes on cigarettes for the past six years, according to the report.

The state also had low marks on tanning bed restrictions for minors and school exercise requirements, according to the group’s scoring criteria.

Fallin’s spokesman isn’t sure he agrees with the lower-than-average physical education score in the report, citing the growing number of certified "healthy schools."

"We're aware that healthy living starts at a young age and that public schools have a role to play in that," Weintz said.

ACS CAN also chides Oklahoma for rejecting Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which the organization supported through its passage. Under the health care law, states have the option to expand Medicaid to cover single adults whose annual salary is no more than $15,282.

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