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.”


05/21/2018 02:00 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. Supreme Court will hear Oklahoma’s plea to reinstate the murder conviction and death sentence of an American Indian. The justices on May 21 said they would review an appellate ruling that overturned the conviction and sentence of Patrick Dwayne Murphy. He claimed he should have been tried in federal, not state, court because he is a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the crime occurred in Indian territory. The federal appeals court in Denver determined that the victim’s body was found within the tribe’s historical boundaries that take in several Oklahoma counties, and include much of the city of Tulsa. The court said the MCN reservation existed before Oklahoma achieved statehood and was never formally deprived of its official status, or disestablished, by Congress. The Trump administration, in a rare uninvited Supreme Court filing, said in support of Oklahoma’s appeal that the issue has “wide-ranging and serious implications for law enforcement.” In Tulsa, with a population of 950,000 people, and eight counties in eastern Oklahoma, most crimes by or against Indians would have to be prosecuted in federal courts if the appellate ruling is upheld, the administration said. The vast majority of crimes are handled by local and state authorities. In 2017, federal prosecutors in the region brought just three indictments for serious crimes because they involved Indian Country, the administration said. That number could increase to more than 500 indictments a year, the administration estimated. A jury in McIntosh County, about 80 miles southeast of Tulsa, found Murphy guilty of the 1999 murder of George Jacobs and a judge sentenced him to death. Prosecutors said he had confessed to killing Jacobs when he was arrested. Lawyers for Murphy had urged the justices to leave the appellate ruling undisturbed. They argued that the appeals court correctly applied Supreme Court precedents dealing with the disestablishment of Indian reservations. They also said the claims of mass disruption of the criminal justice system were overstated. The case, Royal v. Murphy, 17-1107, will be argued in the fall. Justice Neil Gorsuch is not taking part in the court’s review because he dealt with the case while a member of the appeals court.
05/21/2018 08:15 AM
STILWELL – The 71st annual Stilwell Strawberry Festival was held May 11-12, and a strong Cherokee presence could be seen in one of the longest running festivals in Oklahoma. Attractions included a parade, carnival, 5K and fun run, car show, vendor booths, live music, food and strawberries. One of the two Cherokee strawberry growers, Dylan Collyge, attended the festival even though he was unable to sell his berries or enter them in the competition this year. “My berries got hit by a late frost in April and set me back about a month,” he said. Other strawberry farmers did well with their berries and sold them from booths or from their vehicles. Visitors could be seen carrying purchased flats of strawberries around town. The Cherokee Phoenix was at the festival and produced the following video of highlights.
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
05/18/2018 04:00 PM
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.
05/16/2018 04:00 PM
VINITA – Eleven Cherokee families received keys to their new homes on May 11 after participating in the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation’s New Home Construction Program. The 1,350-square-foot brick homes on Miller Street each feature a garage, three bedrooms and two bathrooms. According to Cherokee Nation Communications, $1.1 million was invested into the homes and infrastructure and will provide an estimated $28,000 in impact aid to local schools. CN citizen Candle Melton and her family received one of the new homes. The family of three had lived with her mother, and she said the home is a blessing. “We are so excited to have a brand new house to call our own. This would not have been possible without Cherokee Nation and the New Home Construction Program,” Melton said. “I am definitely proud to be Cherokee and cannot thank Cherokee Nation enough for their investments in our communities and for this wonderful opportunity to become the homeowners of a brand new home.” Principal Chief Bill John Baker implemented the program in 2012. The Vinita home recipients were selected from the HACN’s waiting list of applicants who do not own land. “Helping Cherokees improve their lives by establishing homeownership is creating stronger communities and healthier families in northeast Oklahoma,” Baker said. “We took these acres in Vinita and converted them into a desirable neighborhood of almost a dozen houses. Building safe and secure homes that are affordable for our citizens has established Cherokee Nation’s New Home Construction Program as the unparalleled model of excellence for Indian Country.” Chief of Staff and Vinita native Chuck Hoskin said the homes were the latest in decades of improvements to the area by CN. “In more than 25 years of serving the Cherokee people, I’ve witnessed much progress for this community. These new homes will have a lasting, positive impact,” Hoskin said. The HACN recently received a grant from Bank2 for the home program, which allows the HACN to keep the home recipients’ monthly payment at $350. Schools in the area also benefit from the homes because they receive $2,800 in federal impact aid for each enrolled student who resides in the homes. “The new Miller Street Housing Addition is a major boon for the town of Vinita,” Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez said. “Not only does it help citizens achieve homeownership, it’s also going to bring much-needed revenue to the school system through impact aid dollars.” Along with the homes, the CN also invested more than $100,000 in infrastructure development on Miller Street and within the housing addition. In addition to the 660 homes built through the program, the HACN has nearly 100 more homes under construction in the tribe’s jurisdiction. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
05/16/2018 02:45 PM
TAHLEQUAH – During the May 14 Tribal Council meeting, legislators unanimously amended titles 21 and 22 of the Cherokee Code Annotated, regarding the Violence Against Women Act. The amendment “authorizes special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians who commit domestic violence, dating violence, or a violation of a protection order.” The amended Title 22, Section 70 gives the Cherokee Nation special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over a non-Indian defendant under certain circumstances, including if the offender resides or is employed within the CN jurisdiction or is a spouse, intimate partner or dating partner of a CN citizen or Indian who lives within the CN. Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez said the act’s impact on women is the knowledge that women will be valued, treated with respect and empowered going forward. “I voted for the VAWA to be enforced because it’s the right thing to do. Cherokee Nation leads all tribes in profitable businesses, education and health care in Native Country, and we should be the leader when it comes to the safety of our women and children,” she said. In conjunction, the Tribal Council also amended Title 12 of the Cherokee Code Annotated regarding the Civil Protective Order Act. The amendment gives the CN District Court full civil jurisdiction to issue and enforce protection orders if an act of domestic violence occurred within the CN boundaries. However, the amendment states that jurisdiction is not authorized over parties who are both non-Indian. The amendment also states the District Court has the authority to enforce any orders by civil contempt proceedings, excluding violators from Indian land and other appropriate procedures in matters that arise within the CN jurisdiction or within CN authority according to CN law. In other business, Councilors authorized the “execution of certain contracts that preserve sovereign immunity,” which allows CN to enter into certain contracts more efficiently. Legislators also passed a resolution accepting land from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, which will allow permanent access and tribal upkeep of the road entering Sequoyah’s Cabin and Museum in Sequoyah County. The Tribal Council also amended the CN comprehensive operating budget for fiscal year 2018, increasing it by $5.9 million for a total budget of $693.1 million. Steven E. Barrick was also reappointed to the CN Gaming Commission.
05/14/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Office of Veteran Affairs will host a Memorial Day ceremony at 10 a.m. on May 25 at the Warrior Memorial east of the Tribal Complex. According to a CN email, the ceremony will honor the men and women who died while serving our country’s armed forces. The ceremony will include a laying of wreaths, a rifle volley and the playing of “Taps.” A breakfast will follow the ceremony.