New state law on youth possession will allow for more effective tobacco prevention

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For Immediate Release

For more information contact:
Thomas Larson
(405) 642-6860

New state law on youth possession will allow for more effective tobacco prevention

Promoting help for addicted youth can reduce smoking

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 17, 2022) — Officials at the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) praised the signing of a new state law on Monday that will modify youth purchase, use, or possession (PUP) laws to hold the tobacco industry responsible for their efforts to addict children.

PUP laws were passed in the 1990s to reduce youth access to tobacco but the policies did not stop retailers from illegally selling tobacco products to children. The new law will eliminate fines for youth caught with tobacco and instead require them to attend a course about tobacco addiction through the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission. The new law also requires parents to be notified.

“Penalizing children is not effective in reducing youth tobacco use,” said Julie Bisbee, TSET executive director. “Interventions that provide young people with the tools they need to quit are much more effective. This new law restores the burden of responsibility to those who illegally sell tobacco products to children. I want to thank the legislature and Gov. Stitt for protecting Oklahoma’s youth from Big Tobacco.”

Store clerks who sell tobacco to those under 21 years old could still face a $100 fine for a first offense.

Nearly 75 percent of youth who tried to buy tobacco products reported they were not refused sale, according to the American Heart Association.

The tobacco industry spends $137 million every year marketing their products in Oklahoma. About 28 percent of Oklahoma high school students have reported vaping at least once in the past 30 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System.

“With vaping flavors like gummy bear, strawberry, chocolate and cotton candy, it’s clear that Big Tobacco is marketing to young people to replace their customer base,” said Michelle Stephens, chair of the TSET Board of Directors. “Fining youth can have harmful unintended consequences. I want to thank state leaders for doing away with a counterproductive policy and I look forward to working on more effective strategies to protect youth from a lifetime of nicotine addiction.”

A more effective youth prevention program should include routine education and compliance checks with retailers and support for young people who want to quit tobacco, she added.

In several counties across Oklahoma, TSET Healthy Living Program grantees are educating local retailers and working with them to reduce and prevent the sale of tobacco and vaping products to youth under the age of 21. That work is happening in coordination with the ABLE Commission, Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Future efforts will engage local law enforcement to understand the number of violations and to help educate partners, stakeholders, policy makers, and the public about the important role that retailers have in ensuring youth don’t illegally obtain tobacco.

TSET grantees are also working with local governments to update city ordinances to mirror the state laws that prohibits the sale of tobacco products to people under age 21. Cities can also adopt ordinances that mirror state law in prohibiting tobacco or vape retailers within 300 feet of a playground, school or other facility being used primarily by persons under 21 years of age.

At the same time, TSET wants to help addicted youth quit. TSET provides cessation coaching through My Life, My Quit. The program offers teens ages 13-17 a variety of free tools and resources to help them quit. Each teen is helped by trained staff via text, phone or web-based coaching. Teens can enroll online and learn more about the program at, or text 36072 for real-time coaching.

Tobacco Stops With Me, also a program of TSET, provides information to Oklahomans on how to protect their families and communities against the harms of tobacco and improve the health of all Oklahomans. For the latest information, sign up for the Tobacco Stops With Me newsletter at  


The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) serves as a partner and bridge builder for organizations shaping a healthier future for all Oklahomans. TSET provides leadership at the intersections of health by working with local coalitions and initiatives across the state, cultivating innovative and life-changing research and working across public and private sectors to develop, support, implement and evaluate creative strategies to take advantage of emerging opportunities to improve the public’s health. TSET – Better Lives Through Better Health. To learn more, go to

My Life, My Quit is a free program to help Oklahoma teens, ages 13-17, quit tobacco and e-cigarettes. By offering free live texting, web chat and phone calls, My Life, My Quit supports teens through the steps of quitting tobacco. Funded by the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, these free services for Oklahoma teens can be found at or by texting “Start My Quit” to 36072.

Tobacco Stops With Me is a statewide campaign, funded through the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, that provides an efficient, emotional and highly recognizable tobacco-free message for Oklahomans to rally around. By educating the public about the negative effects and impact of tobacco, the goal of Tobacco Stops With Me is to prevent and reduce tobacco use and improve the health and quality of life of every Oklahoman. Tobacco Stops With Me aims to inspire individuals to make positive changes — not only for their own health, but for the health of the entire state as well. Free resources and more are available at