Policy Tip Sheet: Tobacco Harm Reduction 101: Oklahoma

Published January 27, 2020

Since their introduction to the U.S. market in 2007, e-cigarettes and vaping devices—tobacco harm reduction products that are 95 percent safer than combustible cigarettes—have helped more than three million American adults quit smoking.

1. Economic Impact
According to the Vapor Technology Association, in 2018, the industry created 1,933 direct vaping-related jobs, including manufacturing, retail, and wholesale jobs in Oklahoma, which generated $47.6 million in wages alone.[1] Moreover, the industry has created hundreds of secondary jobs in the Sooner State, bringing the total economic impact in 2018 to $360,051,400. In the same year, Oklahoma received more than $20 million in state taxes attributable to the vaping industry. These figures do not include sales in convenience stores, which sell vapor products including disposables and prefilled cartridges. In 2016, sales of these products in Oklahoma eclipsed $3.5 million.[2]

2. State Health Department Data
As of January 15, 2020, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has reported five cases of vaping-related lung illnesses in Oklahoma.[3] OSDH provides information in age groupings, noting that three of the patients are over the age of 18. There is no information on gender and/or substances vaped. This is alarming because many state health departments have already linked vaping-related lung illnesses to the use of products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and provided this information in their own updates. The Heartland Institute gives OSDH a grade of D for information available on vaping-related lung illnesses.

3. More Information Needed
The most recent report on youth e-cigarette use in Oklahoma is from the 2017 Oklahoma Youth Risk Behavior Survey.[4] According to the survey, in 2017, 16.4 percent of Oklahoma high school students had reported using a vapor product on at least one day, in the 30 days prior to the survey. Further, only 1.9 percent of Oklahoma high school students reported daily e-cigarette use. More data is needed to understand the effects of public health campaigns on youth e-cigarette use.  

4. Youth Sales Miniscule
From January 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) administered 2,887 tobacco age compliance inspections in Oklahoma, in which the agency used a minor in an attempt to purchase tobacco products.[5] Of those, 610, or 21 percent, resulted in a sale to a minor. Of the violations, 97 (15 percent of violations and 3 percent of all compliance checks) involved the sale of e-cigarettes or vaping devices. The number of violations involving sales of cigars and cigarettes were 304 and 168, respectively, during the same period.

5. Misspent Money
In 2019, Oklahoma received an estimated $525.6 million in tobacco taxes and tobacco settlement payments. In the same year, the state spent $21.3 million, or 4 percent, on funding tobacco control programs, including education and prevention.[6]

Policy Solution
Electronic cigarettes and vaping devices have proven to be tremendous tobacco harm reduction tools, helping many smokers transition away from combustible cigarettes. Despite recent fearmongering, their use is significantly safer than traditional cigarettes, as noted by numerous public health groups including the Royal College of Physicians,[7] Public Health England,[8] and the American Cancer Society.[9] Rather than restricting their use, and undoubtedly reducing public health gains and millions of dollars in economic output, lawmakers should dedicate existing tobacco funds on programs that actually reduce youth use.


Key Points:
1. Oklahoma’s vaping industry provided more than $360 million in economic activity in 2018 while generating 1,933 direct vaping-related jobs. Sales of disposables and prefilled cartridges in Oklahoma exceeded $3.5 million in 2016.

2. As of January 15, 2020, OSDH has reported five cases of vaping-related lung illnesses. OSDH offers no information on substances vaped. OSDH earns a D for its transparency on vaping-related lung illnesses.  

3. In 2017, only 1.9 percent of Oklahoma high school students reported daily e-cigarette use. More data is needed.   

4. Only 3 percent of FDA retail compliance checks in Oklahoma resulted in sales of e-cigarettes to minors from January 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019.

5. Oklahoma spends very little on tobacco prevention. In 2019, Oklahoma dedicated only $21.3 million to tobacco control programs including education and prevention, or 4 percent of what the state received in tobacco settlement payments and taxes.



[1] Vapor Technology Association, “The Economic Impact of the Vapor Industry OKLAHOMA,” 2019, https://vta.guerrillaeconomics.net/reports/f589e30a-bd9c-4fea-8163-da3956156749?.

[2] Teresa W. Wang et al., “National and State-Specific Unit Sales and Prices for Electronic Cigarettes, United States, 2012-2016,” Preventing Chronic Disease, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 2, 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2018/17_0555.htm.

[3] Oklahoma State Department of Health, “Weekly Update: Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with E-Cigarettes/Vaping,” January 15, 2020, https://www.ok.gov/health/Prevention_and_Preparedness/Injury_Prevention_Service/Vaping-related_Lung_Injury/. Accessed January 26, 2020.

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Oklahoma 2017 Results,” 2017, https://nccd.cdc.gov/youthonline/App/Results.aspx?LID=OK.

[5] U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “Compliance Check Inspections of Tobacco Product Retailers,” September 30, 2019, https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/oce/inspections/oce_insp_searching.cfm.

[6] Truth Initiative, “Tobacco use in Oklahoma,” June 28, 2019, https://truthinitiative.org/research-resources/smoking-region/tobacco-use-oklahoma-2019.

[7] Royal College of Physicians, Nicotine without Smoke: Tobacco Harm Reduction, April 2016, https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/nicotinewithout-smoke-tobacco-harm-reduction-0.

[8] A. McNeill et al., “Evidence review of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products 2018,” Public Health England, February 2018, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/684963/Evidence_review_of_e-cigarettes_and_heated_tobacco_products_2018.pdf.

[9] The American Cancer Society, “What Do We Know About E-Cigarettes?” June 19, 2019,  https://web.archive.org/web/20190806152535/https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/tobacco-and-cancer/e-cigarettes.html.


For more information, please refer to:

Tobacco Harm Reduction 101: A Guidebook for Policymakers
This booklet from The Heartland Institute aims to inform key stakeholders on the much-needed information on the benefits of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices. Tobacco Harm Reduction 101 details the history of e-cigarettes, including regulatory actions on these products. The booklet also explains the role of nicotine, addresses tax policy and debunks many of the myths associated with e-cigarettes, including assertions about “popcorn lung,” formaldehyde, and the so-called youth vaping epidemic.

Nothing in this Policy Tip Sheet is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this and other topics, visit the Budget & Tax News website, The Heartland Institute’s website, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database.

The Heartland Institute can send an expert to your state to testify or brief your caucus; host an event in your state; or send you further information on a topic. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance! If you have any questions or comments, contact Heartland’s government relations department, at [email protected] or 312/377-4000.