State Receives Almost $90 Million in Tobacco Funds
Attorney General Drew Edmondson and State Treasurer Scott Meacham said Oklahoma yesterday received almost $90 million from the tobacco industry, 75 percent of which went directly into the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund.
Meacham’s office confirmed receipt of a wire transfer in the amount of $89,825,336.54 from the trustee of the tobacco settlement funds.
“November was the 10-year anniversary of the Master Settlement Agreement,” Edmondson said. “We knew back then that the monies Oklahoma would receive from this settlement would help the state, and in this economic environment, these funds are even more beneficial. But, as important as the monetary aspect of the agreement is, the true measure of our work can be seen in the statistics that reflect a downward trend in smoking, especially among youth.”
More than $67 million of the payment was deposited in Oklahoma’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund, which now has a balance of more than $384 million.
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.
“We are immediately putting these funds to work to generate more money to improve Oklahomans’ health,” Meacham said. “The ultimate benefit of this money to the people of Oklahoman is to help them live longer and healthier lives.”
This year’s payment included the second allocation of Oklahoma’s share of the agreement’s strategic contribution funds. These funds were awarded to the state for the strategic contribution Edmondson, his office and local counsel made to the prosecution of the lawsuit and will be added to Oklahoma’s annual tobacco payment for ten years. Oklahoma should receive about $26.8 million in strategic contribution funds each year.
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.