State Receives Tobacco Money
Attorney General Drew Edmondson and State Treasurer Scott Meacham said Oklahoma has received more than $5.6 million from the tobacco industry, 75 percent of which went directly into the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund.
“The money comes from a partial agreement over disputed funds from the industry’s 2005 annual payment,” Edmondson said. “The states and the companies have been arguing about that year’s payment amount for several months.”
Meacham’s office confirmed receipt of a wire transfer yesterday in the amount of $5.6 million from the trustee of the tobacco settlement funds. More than $4.2 million was deposited in Oklahoma’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund, which now has a balance of more than $310 million.
“We have placed these funds into the endowment trust so they can be put to use generating money to help improve the health of Oklahomans,” said Meacham, chairman of the fund’s board of investors. Since becoming chairman of the board of investors in 2005, Meacham has directed changes in the investments that have more than doubled earnings from the fund.
In August 1996 Oklahoma became the 14th state to file a lawsuit against the tobacco companies, asking for restraints against the industry and monetary damages for state funds spent treating smoking-related illnesses. Oklahoma sought about $1 billion in damages.
In November 1998, Edmondson and seven other attorneys general announced they had, on behalf of the states, negotiated a historic settlement with big tobacco. The settlement imposed sweeping changes in tobacco advertising, banned the tobacco companies from targeting children, allocated funding for tobacco education efforts and provided the states annual payments based on the number of cigarettes sold in the country. The total of payments over 25 years was projected to be in excess of $206 billion, and payments will continue as long as cigarettes are sold.
Oklahoma’s share of the settlement is estimated to be $2.03 billion over 25 years. An additional $268 million was awarded to the state for the strategic contribution Edmondson, his office and local counsel made to the prosecution of the lawsuit. Attorney fees were paid by the tobacco industry and did not come from Oklahoma’s share of the settlement.
The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund was created by a voter-approved amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution in 2000, which specifies that only the earnings from the trust fund may be spent on programs to improve the health and well being of Oklahomans, particularly children and senior adults.