http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgAmy DeVore, Cherokee Nation public health educator, speaks with Regina Sumler, left, and Mettie Detherage during a smoking cessation class at the CN Vinita Health Center. Sumler and Mettie were taking the class to stop smoking. Oklahoma is spending more to combat tobacco use than most states — but it still isn’t close to what experts think is needed. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Amy DeVore, Cherokee Nation public health educator, speaks with Regina Sumler, left, and Mettie Detherage during a smoking cessation class at the CN Vinita Health Center. Sumler and Mettie were taking the class to stop smoking. Oklahoma is spending more to combat tobacco use than most states — but it still isn’t close to what experts think is needed. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Oklahoma advances efforts to combat tobacco use

01/29/2018 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma is spending more to combat tobacco use than most states — but it still isn’t close to what experts think is needed.

Oklahoma ranks seventh on spending to curb tobacco use, with $19 million going to anti-smoking programs in the current fiscal year, according a report from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. That’s only about 45 percent of the $42.3 million the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the states put into encouraging current tobacco users to quit and discouraging youth from starting to smoke, though.

Julie Bisbee, Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust spokeswoman, said the report doesn’t fully capture Oklahoma’s anti-tobacco efforts, because it doesn’t include about $3.8 million from the Oklahoma State Department of Health and county governments. The report noted that Oklahoma’s figures should be considered preliminary, because the state’s budget still isn’t finalized.

If that funding were included, Oklahoma would be tied for third place with North Dakota, which spent about 54 percent of what the CDC recommended on tobacco control.

The state is projected to receive about $389.5 million this budget year from cigarette taxes and the tobacco master settlement agreement, and only about 5 percent of that money will go to programs that discourage smoking.

Major tobacco companies reached an agreement with most of the states in the late 1990s to make annual payments to compensate states for health costs related to smoking.

Still, Oklahoma is spending more per capita on tobacco control than many states, and that’s partly because residents voted in 2000 to place 75 percent of proceeds from the settlement agreement into the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust. Other states have tended to raid the funding in bad budget years to pay for expenses not related to tobacco.

About 20 percent of adults and 15 percent of high school students in Oklahoma smoke, according to the CDC. Both rates are higher than the national average, though they have gone down in recent years.

The report estimated that about 7,500 deaths in Oklahoma are linked to smoking each year, and that smoking increases health costs in the state by $1.62 billion annually. The estimate doesn’t include illnesses related to secondhand smoke, such as childhood asthma or premature births to mothers who smoke. It also doesn’t take into account cancers related to other forms of tobacco.

If Oklahoma wants to decrease its smoking rates, spending more on prevention isn’t the only way it needs to attack the problem, said Gary Raskob, dean of the University of Oklahoma College of Public Health and chair of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department board. The most important thing the state could do is make cigarettes more expensive, he said.

Oklahoma currently charges $1.03 in taxes per pack of cigarettes, the Oklahoman reported. A bill to raise the tax by $1.50 didn’t have support from three-quarters of the Legislature, which is required for a tax increase, so supporters packaged it as a “fee” and passed it with a simple majority. The Oklahoma Supreme Court promptly struck the law down as an unconstitutional tax increase, blowing a $250 million hole in the budget.

A tax increase also could pass by referendum, but that has only happened once, in 2004.

Tobacco companies are willing to offset smaller tax increases with coupons, Raskob said, but $1.50 seems to be their limit. While not everyone who is addicted to tobacco will quit when the price rises, tax increases have proved valuable in discouraging teens who have the occasional cigarette from becoming regular smokers, he said.

“What we really want to do is shut off the pipeline and the inflow of new smokers,” he said.

The state could use some of the increased revenue to target help with quitting at low-income people, who are more likely to smoke, and young people, who haven’t yet done severe damage to their health and benefit most from quitting, Raskob said. The Legislature also could reduce the smoking rate without spending any money if it lifted a ban on cities and counties adopting more stringent tobacco rules, such as local ordinances banning smoking in bars, he said.

Marketing by tobacco companies still dwarfs state anti-smoking spending in most states. In Oklahoma, tobacco companies spent about $8.50 on advertising and other promotions for every $1 the state spent on discouraging smoking in 2015, the last year with data available. Nationwide, the ratio was even more imbalanced, with tobacco companies spending about $12.40 for every $1 in anti-tobacco spending.

This year, however, tobacco companies have had to spend some money on advertising messages that discourage smoking. The largest companies have been running messages on TV and in some newspapers since November, stating that they lied about the effects of smoking.

The “corrective statements” were required after a federal court found in 2006 that major tobacco companies had violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which was intended to combat organized crime, by conspiring to spread false information about their products.

While it might seem that everyone knows smoking is bad for you, a poll conducted by the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center in May found significant numbers of people didn’t know all of the facts included in the corrective statements. Less than half of adults surveyed knew that tobacco companies designed cigarettes to increase their addictiveness, spread misleading information about the harms of secondhand smoke and concealed information that “light” and “low tar” cigarettes were no healthier than the ordinary version.

The statements also serve as a reminder to the public about tobacco companies’ past behavior, and a caution against believing their future statements about new products, said Bisbee, the spokeswoman for the state’s tobacco settlement trust.

“The corrective statements focus on a coordinated effort of an industry to addict, to lie and to design lethal products to make them more addictive and target specific groups like youth and minorities. The deception has led to the addiction and death of millions,” she said. “They are being held accountable for their acts and (the corrective statements) will continue to remind the public of the deception of an industry over at least a 50-year period.”


05/27/2018 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – Living in Oklahoma during the late spring and summertime means facing heat conditions that can sometimes reach dangerous temperatures. Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, and an estimated 618 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year. It is important to know how to protect yourself and others from the impacts of heat waves. Extreme heat can lead to dangerous heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. These illnesses happen when the body is not able to properly cool itself. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the body is supposed to cool itself off by sweating. However, in cases of extreme heat, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Personal factors such as age, weight, dehydration, heart disease, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use can also play a role in whether a person can cool off enough in very hot weather. “People must balance their summertime activity with actions that help the body cool itself,” Robyn Sunday-Allen, Oklahoma City Indian Clinic CEO, said. “It is important that everyone understands the signs of heat illness and should even take time to check on the elderly, friends, family and neighbors during these conditions to ensure their health and safety." Limit outdoor activity. If you like to exercise or even just like being outdoors, it is important to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours. You must start slowly and then gradually pick up your pace. However, if you are exercising in extreme heat and you are left gasping for breath, immediately stop all activity, let someone know where you are, and get into a shaded and cool area to rest. In addition, it is important to protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher. Never leave kids or pets unattended in a hot vehicle. As a reminder, the temperature in a car can be deadly during extreme heat. The temperature inside a car can rise 20 degrees Fahrenheit in just 10 minutes, so leaving a window open is not enough. Children who are left unattended in the heat and in parked cars are highly at risk for heat stroke and sometimes even death. To avoid any heat illnesses, dress children in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing. It is also important that they drink lots of fluids. Check up on the elderly, sick and those without air conditioning. People aged 65 years or older are more at risk to encounter heat-related health problems. Prevent these illnesses by checking up on people in the community during periods of extreme heat. Air conditioning is important to have in conditions of intense heat. If someone is without air conditioning, offer to drive him or her to an air-conditioned location or a safer environment. Also, consider carrying extra bottles of water and other supplies in case others are in need of them.
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
05/27/2018 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizens living outside the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction are eligible for free one-year subscriptions of the Cherokee Phoenix thanks to a $10,000 disbursement from the principal chief’s office on behalf of At-Large Tribal Councilors Mary Baker Shaw and Wanda Hatfield. The Cherokee Phoenix recently received the funds and is taking names on a first-come, first-served basis until the money is depleted. “These funds that have been provided to the Cherokee Phoenix by the joint efforts of our tribal administration and our At-Large (Tribal) Councilors Mary Baker Shaw and Wanda Hatfield will go a long way in providing subscriptions to at-large citizens,” Executive Editor Brandon Scott said. “It has always been our goal here at the Phoenix to make sure that every citizen that wants a copy of the Cherokee Phoenix is able to get one. That is the sole reason we exist. Our success depends on our subscribers. Our ability to remain independent relies solely on the funds we receive from subscriptions, so these funds are not only assisting at-large citizens they are also assisting us in remaining independent. I’d personally like to thank Councilors Baker and Shaw as well as the administration for making this donation possible.” Scott added that there are no restrictions on receiving a free subscription other than living outside the CN jurisdiction and being a CN citizen. Using the fund, at-large CN citizens can apply to receive a free one-year subscription by visiting, calling or writing the Cherokee Phoenix office and requesting a subscription. The Cherokee Phoenix office is located in the Annex Building on the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. The postal address is Cherokee Phoenix, P.O. Box 948, Tahlequah, OK 74465. To call about the fund, call 918-207-4975 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>. The Cherokee Phoenix also has a free website, <a href="" target="_blank"></a>, that posts news seven days a week about the Cherokee government, people, history and events of interest. The monthly newspaper is also posted in PDF format to the website at the beginning of each month. Cherokee Nation Businesses in November donated $10,000 to the Cherokee Phoenix’s Elder/Veteran Fund, which provides free subscriptions of its monthly newspaper to elders and/or military veterans who are CN citizens. No income guidelines have been specified for the Cherokee Phoenix Elder/Veteran Fund, and free subscriptions will be given as long as funds last. Tax-deductible donations for the fund can also be sent to the Cherokee Phoenix by check or money order specifying the donation for the Cherokee Phoenix Elder/Veteran Fund. Cash is also accepted at the Cherokee Phoenix offices and local events where Cherokee Phoenix staff members are accepting Elder/Veteran Fund donations. Those who donate can also have entries submitted for them into the Cherokee Phoenix’s quarterly artist giveaway. For every $10 donated or spent on Cherokee Phoenix merchandise, a person gets one entry into the quarterly drawing. The next drawing is July 2 when it gives away a two-piece, 12-foot fishing rod donated by Larry Fulton of Larry’s Bait and Tackle in Fort Gibson.
05/26/2018 04:00 PM
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — American Indian tribes are welcoming an opportunity to offer sports betting in potentially hundreds of casinos across the country after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to legalize it. Tribal casinos generate more than $31 billion a year in gross revenue. While adding sports books isn’t expected to boost that number significantly, tribes say it’s another source to deliver services to tribal members. “The conversation is always, ‘Why don’t you do like Vegas?’“ said Sheila Morago, executive director of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association. “Everybody always wants to give their customers things they have asked for.” Many tribes give a share of casino profits to states in exchange for exclusive rights to conduct gambling operations. In Arizona, the state’s share was about $100 million last year. Some tribes believe agreements with states already give them the right to control sports betting, while others will work out the details through negotiations in compacts that vary in wording state by state. “It’s going to be important for the tribes that their position as sovereigns and their existing compacts within their states are recognized,” said Valerie Spicer, a co-founder of the consulting firm Trilogy Group. “There’s still a lot of work left to do.” Nearly 240 tribes operate casinos in more than half of U.S. states under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act or as commercial ventures. Some only have games like bingo or pull tabs that don’t need authorization from states. The majority of the roughly 475 tribal casinos have those games and others like slot machines, blackjack and other table games, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission. Sports wagering would fall in the latter category, the commission said. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act on a challenge from New Jersey. The law limited sports betting to four states that met a 1991 deadline to legalize it: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. States now can adopt laws regulating sports betting, though some already have the legal framework in place. In California, voters would have to approve a change to the state constitution. As is, California tribes have exclusivity in casino-style gambling, and some believe that includes sports betting. Steve Stallings, the chairman of the California Indian Gaming Commission, said the group that represents 34 tribes wants specifics on what sports betting would encompass before the state moves to legalize it. For example, he said, would it occur at a physical sports book or could wagers be placed online? “Expansion of gaming is a slippery slope,” he said. “Tribes feel like they have somewhat an exclusivity to it. When the state or other interests violate that, then tribes are concerned.” In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey saw the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision as a way to modernize tribal gambling compacts and potentially boost revenue to the state. Most of the tribal compacts are up for renewal in 2022. Greg Jones was visiting a casino run by the Navajo Nation east of Flagstaff this week. He said he used to bet regularly on college football and being able to do it at a tribal casino less than an hour from his home beats traveling to Nevada. “It’s a big pot,” he said. “Everyone should be able to dip their foot in the pool.” Tribes in Oklahoma have been trying to get sports betting approved through the state legislature in the last two sessions but have been unsuccessful, Morago said. In Connecticut, the Mohegan Tribe said it’s looking forward to working with the state to legalize and regulate sports betting. “We have long felt that Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment was in a great position to offer this type of gaming at our properties,” spokeswoman Jennifer Harris Ballester wrote in a statement. Ernie Stevens Jr., chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, said the group has been preparing tribal governments for sports betting with listening sessions outlining internal regulations and negotiations of state gambling compacts. Location and competition would be major factors in tribes’ decisions to add sports betting, he said. “I don’t believe this is going to take the place of our slot machines, but it’s another amenity we can enjoy and people can have fun with,” he said. “And we want to be able to move forward with the overall industry.”
05/26/2018 12:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Experts are looking at how Oklahoma's seismic activity impacts critical infrastructure as frequent, low-level earthquake swarms continue to pop off throughout the state. The Tulsa World reports that Oklahoma has experienced 80 earthquakes of 3.0 or greater magnitudes this year through Thursday morning. The Oklahoma Geological Survey says that 2015 was the state's peak year, with just over 900 quakes of 3.0 or greater. A Society of Exploration Geophysicists article this month said that soil, concrete and steel structures are "susceptible to fatigue" under seismic conditions that weren't considered during design. Scientists worry long-term low-level shaking could affect storage tanks and pipelines in Cushing, an oil hub in Oklahoma. The Tulsa-based society is hosting an August forum to engage experts in discussions on the issues and write for publication.
05/25/2018 03:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation will host a send-off ceremony for its cyclists who leave Tahlequah on Tuesday for the annual “Remember the Removal” Bike Ride. This year’s cyclists range in age from 18 to 24. They will meet eight cyclists from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina for a ride that begins in New Echota, Georgia, on June 3, and concludes around 950 miles later on June 21 in Tahlequah. Cyclists follow the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears - spanning Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma – to retrace the path of their ancestors. Of the estimated 16,000 Cherokees forced to march to Indian Territory in the late 1830s, 4,000 died from exposure, starvation and disease, giving credence to the name Trail of Tears. During the ceremony, tribal leaders will wish the cyclists a successful trip and safe return. The CN riders are Daulton Cochran, Emilee Chavez, Lily Drywater, Dale Eagle, Parker Weavel, Sky Wildcat, Courtney Cowan, Autumn Lawless and Amari McCoy. Jennifer Johnson, a CN citizen and Oklahoma City lawyer, was chosen as this year’s mentor rider. Cherokee Nation Businesses Executive Vice President Chuck Garrett, an avid cyclist, is also expected to join the cyclists during the journey’s first week. Follow the riders at <a href="" target="_blank"></a> and on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtags #RTR2018 and #WeRemember.
05/25/2018 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – Officials with the Oklahoma Senior Games said registration for the 2018 competition is open and will feature 20 events, including new ones such as a power walk, softball, corn hole and washer pitch. Local Senior Games events were held this spring in Yukon and will be held this fall in Ardmore from Sept. 7-14. Fall events will also be held in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas. All athletes must be 50 years old by Dec. 31, except for those who compete in badminton, cycling, tennis and table tennis. Those events are open to athletes who are 40 and older by Dec. 31. Participants will compete in one of the following age categories for both individual and/or doubles sports: 50-54, 55-59,60-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75-79, 80-84, 85-89,90-94,95-99 and 100 and older. Team sports are divided into the following brackets: 50-plus, 55-plus, 60-plus, 65-plus, 70-plus, 75-plus, 80-plus and 85-plus. Partner and team age groups will be determined by the age of the youngest partner/team member. Athletes may enter as many events as their schedule allows. Participants finishing in the top places in their age category in each event qualify for National Senior Games set for June 14-25, 2019, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Early bird registration is $50 before 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 1. After Aug. 1, registration is $60 until two weeks before each event’s entry deadline. Fee includes up to 6 events. Additional events will be $5 each. A $10 fee will be added for paper registrations. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.