Oklahoma Marks 10-Year MSA Anniversary
Governor Brad Henry today proclaimed Nov. 23, 2008, “A Healthier Oklahoma Day,” at a ceremony marking the 10-year anniversary of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with the nation’s largest tobacco manufacturers, and he honored Attorney General Drew Edmondson for his role in negotiating the historic agreement.
The governor’s proclamation, which was read at the capitol ceremony by Gerald Adams, Chief of Staff for Governor Henry, offered “gratitude to Attorney General Edmondson for his leadership and vision on this critical issue.”
Edmondson and Adams were joined at the ceremony by Dr. Robert McCaffree, Chief of Staff at the Oklahoma VA Medical Center and Tracey Strader, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust fund (TSET).
The 10-year anniversary of the MSA is Nov. 23.
“The funding generated by the MSA is helping make a positive difference in the lives of Oklahomans,” said Gov. Henry. “By directing the proceeds to health care needs, particularly smoking cessation efforts, we are making our state healthier. I applaud Attorney General Drew Edmondson for the leadership role he has played in this important effort.”
Edmondson was one of eight attorneys general chosen to negotiate the settlement with the nations’s largest tobacco manufacturers including R.J. Reynolds, Phillip Morris, Lorillard and Brown and Williamson.
“This is a great, great milestone for the State of Oklahoma,” Edmondson said. “When we first filed suit against the tobacco companies in 1996, they had never lost a case in court. They were thought to be bulletproof. When the MSA was signed in 1998, it was met with skepticism. The statistics tell the story though. The number of smokers is down, and the number of smokers who want to quit is up. From a public health standpoint, the success of the MSA is irrefutable.”
The most significant legal reform of the tobacco industry, the MSA imposes sweeping changes in tobacco advertising, bans the tobacco companies from targeting children, allocates funding for tobacco education efforts and provides the states annual payments based on the number of cigarettes sold in the country.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. consumption has declined by more than 100 billion cigarettes over the past decade. The decline is significant because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 80 percent of lung cancer deaths in women and 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in men can be attributed to smoking.
According to the Oklahoma Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System the number of adult smokers has fallen from 28.7 percent in 2001 to 25.2 percent in the first six months of 2008.
“Tobacco is the number one preventable cause of our greatest killers, such as cancer, heart disease and stroke,” said McCaffree. “The MSA has served as a catalyst for the medical community and anti-smoking advocates and emboldened us in our efforts against tobacco addiction.”
Among kids, the decline is even more pronounced. According to the Oklahoma Youth Tobacco survey, in 1999, 33.5 percent of Oklahoma high school students smoked, and in 2007, that number had dropped to 23.4 percent.
“We are most proud of the decline in smoking among our youth,” Edmondson said. “The MSA really changed the way the tobacco industry markets their products. Gone are the days of cartoon Joe Camel and billboard tobacco ads. Instead, there is money dedicated to countering the tobacco industry’s mass marketing. Kids are hearing the anti-tobacco message. We are seeing results.”
Additionally, the MSA provides a revenue stream to help states offset the cost of treating smoking-related illnesses. Nationally, payments from the MSA are projected to be in excess of $206 billion over 25 years, and payments will continue as long as cigarettes are sold. To date, Oklahoma has received $647,884,892.46.
Of the money received by the state, $368,430,218.09 has been placed in the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust fund (TSET), which was created at Edmondson’s urging by a voter-approved constitutional amendment in November 2000. Only the interest and dividend earnings of the Trust may be spent, and the money must be spent on programs to improve the health of Oklahomans. In this fiscal year, the endowment’s investments earned the largest amount of interest and earnings to date, $15.5 million, which has been used for tobacco control programs.
Oklahoma is the only state to have constitutionally protected its tobacco fund.
“In Oklahoma, as the earnings from the endowment’s investments have grown, the board of directors has focused funding on effective programs to reduce tobacco use,” said Strader. “The board’s first effort was to establish the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) which offers free ‘quit coaching’ and nicotine patches and gum to any Oklahoman with a desire to quit tobacco. Next, key community-based programs were funded across the state to help communities prevent tobacco use and addiction, reduce secondhand smoke exposure and reduce tobacco industry influences in their communities.
“Earlier this year, the board of directors has also been able to fund a state-wide media campaign ‘Tobacco Stops With Me’ which calls on all Oklahomans to take action to reduce the toll of tobacco in Oklahoma,” said Strader. “Additionally, the board provided funding to establish the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center (OTRC). The OTRC will translate research to practice to help ensure that programs funded to fight tobacco addiction in Oklahoma remain among the most effective in the country.”
Additionally, in 2008, the state received its first “strategic contribution” payment, which will be awarded annually over 10 years because of Edmondson’s place at the negotiating table.
“The work that’s been done over the last 10 years is really just a jumping off point for us,” Edmondson said. “Because of the way our trust fund is set up, the money Oklahoma has to spend on cessation programs and counter-marketing will steadily increase while the money available to other states will steadily decline. Ten years from now, I hope we are a state of non-smokers. I believe it is possible.”