One Billion Fewer Packs of Cigarettes Sold in Oklahoma

TSET Executive Director Tracey Strader

TSET Executive Director Tracey Strader

In April, the major tobacco companies paid the State of Oklahoma $76.9 million as part of the 1998 national Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) between 46 states and the tobacco industry. As required by the Constitution, 75% or $57.6 million, was deposited in the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) fund for investment.

It is important to remember that the Master Settlement Agreement was reached after Oklahoma and other states sued the tobacco industry to recover funds for state expenses incurred in the treatment of smoking-caused illnesses. The lawsuits alleged that the tobacco companies used a wide range of deceptive and fraudulent practices when marketing cigarettes.

For TSET, this year’s payment was a milestone, bringing the trust fund balance to just over $1 billion. The endowment has grown over time because of the wisdom of our state leaders and Oklahoma voters, to invest the payments, and use only the earnings for programs to improve health.

And yet, it isn’t the money we celebrate today. Over the past 15 years, as the trust fund balance was growing to $1 billion, cigarette sales declined to the tune of 1 billion fewer packs sold in our state!

Outcomes this big take years to achieve. Fifteen years after voters approved the creation of the endowment, we are celebrating tremendous accomplishments as a result of TSET’s program investments, and the efforts of dedicated grantees, coalitions, organizations, and individuals working together to make Oklahoma a healthier place to live, work, learn, and play.

The slogan at the time of the campaign 15 years ago was, “Save it, Grow it, Spend it on Health.”

And we have. And it is working.

Be sure to check out our FY14 annual report, which focuses on the landmark public health accomplishment of the Master Settlement Agreement, and the work of our grantees and partners across the state.

As the investment earnings continue to grow, the TSET Board of Directors has strategically expanded its program investments to include approaches that promote healthy eating and active living, recruit physicians to rural and underserved areas, and create life-saving discoveries in research in cancer and tobacco-related diseases.

Oklahoma has become a model for the use of MSA funds, and as a result of this endowment, we are one of a few states that cannot be labled as “addicted” to tobacco money. If cigarette sales stopped tomorrow, Oklahoma would have this endowment trust fund, to generate earnings for programs to improve the health of Oklahomans for generations to come. As Oklahomans, this is one victory that truly belongs to us all.

Published by Tobacco Stops With Me on June 1, 2015