Oklahoma became the fourteenth state to file suit against the tobacco industry to recover tax dollars lost treating smoking-caused illnesses. Within two years 46 state attorneys general had joined together to negotiate a settlement with the four largest tobacco companies in the United States. Oklahoma's Attorney General, Drew Edmondson, was one of eight attorneys general to serve on the negotiating team.
The 46 states negotiated a Master Settlement Agreement ("MSA") with the tobacco industry. Four states - Florida, Minnesota, Texas, and Mississippi had previously settled their tobacco cases separately. As a result of the MSA, the tobacco industry is projected to pay Oklahoma approximately $2 billion over the first 25 years of the settlement.
Oklahoma's Constitution was amended by a vote of the people, to place a portion of each year's tobacco settlement payments into an endowment trust fund, to create a five-member Board of Investors to oversee the investment of the trust funds, and to create a seven-member Board of Directors to direct the earnings from the trust to fund programs in the following five areas:
1. Clinical and basic research and treatment efforts in Oklahoma for the purpose of enhancing efforts to prevent and combat cancer and other tobacco-related diseases;
2. Cost-effective tobacco prevention and cessation programs;
3. Programs designed to maintain or improve the health of Oklahomans or to enhance the provision of health care services to Oklahomans, with particular emphasis on such programs for children;
4. Programs and services for the benefit of the children of Oklahoma, with particular emphasis on common and higher education, before- and after-school programs, substance abuse prevention and treatment programs and services designed to improve the health and quality of life of children; and
5. Programs designed to enhance the health and well-being of senior adults.
The first meeting of the Board of Directors was held, and a contract was established with the Oklahoma City Community Foundation for planning assistance. During the fall of 2001, the Board of Directors studied the activities of other states, heard program funding suggestions from a large number of public and private organizations in Oklahoma, and created a strategic plan that prioritized tobacco use prevention and cessation programs as the initial target for funding.
An Executive Director was hired and a state office was established.
The Board of Directors approved funding to initiate a statewide tobacco use "quitline" to provide information, self-help materials, and behavioral counseling over the telephone for all Oklahomans with a desire to stop smoking or using other tobacco products.
The Board of Directors and Board of Investors held their first annual joint meeting to exchange information to aid in both program and investment planning. The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline was launched, and the Board of Directors engaged in an operational planning process to develop a five-year plan. As a result, the board voted to dedicate all of the available earnings in the early years of the endowment to effective tobacco control programs.
The Communities of Excellence in Tobacco Control program was launched
The Addressing Tobacco in Specific Populations program was launched