Agency’s to­bacco fund­ing is a must

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - OPINION - BY KEVIN TAUBMAN, M.D.

As a med­i­cal pro­fes­sional, I spend a lot of time fig­ur­ing out how I can best treat — and hope­fully cure — pa­tients’ dis­eases. I’m also com­mit­ted to do­ing ev­ery­thing I can to pre­vent Ok­la­homans from get­ting sick in the first place.

Nearly one-third of cancer deaths in Ok­la­homa are at­trib­ut­able to smok­ing, and the state spends $1.6 bil­lion a year on re­lated health care costs. Although smok­ing rates among adults have fallen, nearly one in five adult Ok­la­homans still smokes.

Na­tive Amer­i­cans are par­tic­u­larly likely to be smok­ers. Na­tion­ally, Na­tive Amer­i­cans have the high­est smok­ing rate, nearly 22 per­cent, of any racial or eth­nic group.

Our state’s progress in re­duc­ing smok­ing is due in large part to Ok­la­homa’s To­bacco Set­tle­ment En­dow­ment Trust, which uses money from the 1998 to­bacco set­tle­ment to fund ini­tia­tives fo­cused on pre­vent­ing cancer and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, Ok­la­homa’s lead­ing causes of death.

We are for­tu­nate that TSET en­ables the state to fund pro­grams to pre­vent kids from us­ing to­bacco and help smok­ers quit. But another key part of our suc­cess is the strong sup­port Ok­la­homa re­ceives from the fed­eral Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion.

The CDC’s “Tips from Former Smok­ers” me­dia cam­paign, which de­picts the real-life health con­se­quences of smok­ing, has been a ma­jor pub­lic health suc­cess. Since its launch in 2012, the cam­paign has mo­ti­vated about 5 mil­lion smok­ers to try to quit, helped about 500,000 quit suc­cess­fully and saved at least 50,000 lives. At a cost of less than $400 for each year of life saved, it is con­sid­ered a “best buy” in pub­lic health — and is much cheaper than treat­ing a cancer pa­tient.

The CDC also de­vel­ops best prac­tices for ef­fec­tive to­bacco preven­tion and ces­sa­tion pro­grams, pro­vides sup­port for to­bacco ces­sa­tion quit lines in ev­ery state, and works with states to con­duct sur­veys on to­bacco use among youth and adults. In Ok­la­homa, the CDC pro­vides fund­ing specif­i­cally for re­duc­ing to­bacco use among tribal cit­i­zens.

The CDC can only pre­vent to­bacco use ef­fec­tively if it is ad­e­quately funded. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, is chair­man of the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Sub­com­mit­tee that over­sees CDC fund­ing. While Cole has been a cham­pion for pub­lic health, last sum­mer his bill pro­posed cut­ting the CDC’s to­bacco con­trol ef­forts by nearly one-fourth, putting proven pro­grams like Tips at risk and threat­en­ing to re­duce the es­sen­tial as­sis­tance the CDC pro­vides to states. For­tu­nately, this bill was not en­acted into law, and with Cole’s sup­port, fund­ing for CDC’s to­bacco preven­tion and ces­sa­tion ef­forts were slightly in­creased in the fi­nal 2018 fund­ing bill signed into law in March.

As Congress be­gins to draft its ap­pro­pri­a­tions bills for 2019, I en­cour­age Cole to use his lead­er­ship role to en­sure that the CDC’s to­bacco pro­grams are funded at least at $216.5 mil­lion.

Ok­la­homa has come a long way in the bat­tle against to­bacco. To fin­ish the fight, our elected of­fi­cials at all lev­els must en­sure that Ok­la­homans con­tinue to ben­e­fit from ef­fec­tive pro­grams to pre­vent kids from us­ing to­bacco and help smok­ers quit. By do­ing so, we can greatly re­duce the num­ber of pa­tients who come through the doors of our hospi­tal for cancer di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment. Taubman is pres­i­dent of the Ok­la­homa State Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion.

Dr. Kevin Taubman

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