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    Oklahoma Takes Aim at Tobacco

    The state Health Department heads a coalition seeking to raise cigarette taxes and pass aggressive new laws.

    The state Health Department and three other Oklahoma agencies vowed to crack down on tobacco and underage smokers.

    State leaders unveiled a plan that asks state lawmakers for $31 million in annual funding, a cigarette tax of $1 per pack and new laws that would promote smoke-free public places. Their proposal comprises prevention, cessation and enforcement. It is modeled after strategies used successfully in Florida, California and Massachusetts, according to The Oklahoman.

    The state has assembled committees and task forces against tobacco before, but success has been minimal. Oklahomans have not seen an anti-tobacco initiative as aggressive as this one. To ask for $31 million in annual funding is bold. To propose a $1-per-pack cigarette tax may be unrealistic, the report said.

    Health Commissioner Beitsch has emerged as the coalition's leader. And he will use the alliance as leverage at the state Capitol next legislative session. While he said the partnership would make a huge difference, Beitsch is also counting on broad public support. "Seventy-seven percent of the people in Oklahoma don't smoke, and I think they're tired of breathing other people's smoke," he said.

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