On May 24, 2021 Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed into law Senate Bill 1078, modifying the definition of tobacco and nicotine-containing products, and exempting certain products from taxation. The new law incentivizes users of highly harmful tobacco products, like cigarettes, to transition to less harmful alternatives. With evidence demonstrating that some nicotine products expose users to significantly less harm than others, SB (Senate Bill) 1078 is a welcome reform to Oklahoma’s tax laws that will improve public health.
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and the smoking rate in Oklahoma is the 9th highest in the country, according to CDC estimates. Such high rates of cigarette use demonstrated to Governor Stitt and the Oklahoma legislature the necessity of following the science on reduced harm alternatives and enacting this legislation. Increased adult access to these products will decrease cigarette smoking in Oklahoma and save lives.
The state’s previous tobacco tax placed products like nicotine pouches and lozenges, which contain no tobacco, in the same category as tobacco-containing products. By placing safer products in the same category as harmful ones, Oklahoma’s legislature had signaled to consumers that there was no distinguishable difference, while scientific evidence shows otherwise.
According to a harm analysis from the world’s leading researchers on tobacco control, cancer prevention, and public health, cigarettes are the most harmful of all nicotine-containing products. The products exempted from Oklahoma’s tobacco tax, nicotine pouches, lozenges, and gums, are the least harmful of all nicotine-containing products and expose users to 3% or less of the harm cigarettes cause.
E-cigarettes, which the harm analysis estimated to be only 4% as harmful as cigarettes, are already exempt from the Oklahoma’s tobacco tax. SB 1078 ensured that they remain exempt, even amidst pressure to tax vaping from anti-vaping activists and misinformed public health officials. It should be noted that e-cigarettes would save at least 92,000 lives in Oklahoma if a majority of cigarette smokers in the state switched to vaping.
ATR (Americans for Tax Reform) commends the Oklahoma Legislature for passing SB 1078 and thanks Governor Stitt for signing this crucial bill. ATR would also like to extend gratitude to Representative Dustin Roberts who sponsored this bill in the House. Representative Roberts is a signer of ATR’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge and is a reliable and productive defender of taxpayers across the state of Oklahoma. His work on SB 1078 will undoubtedly save lives and this massive success could not have been achieved without his support.