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Unlike many other states, Oklahoma has kept the promise of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement.
Oklahoma is the only state in the nation that has constitutionally protected the majority of funds it received as part of a multi-state lawsuit against the tobacco industry. The funds were placed in an endowment to ensure a growing funding source dedicated to improving the health of all Oklahomans for generations to come.
A 2000 constitutional amendment approved by a 69 percent to 31 percent vote:
• Established the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund (TSET).
The Endowment is a long-term strategy to improve Oklahoma’s health status. Earnings from investments have gradually increased each year from a low of $650,000 at the end of FY 2002 to a high of $18.9 million in FY 2010. An additional $17.3 million was certified from FY 2011 investments after an Attorney General’s opinion clarified the definitions of earnings in 2011.
The Board of Directors is bipartisan with representation from each congressional district and each board member is appointed by a different elected official, as mandated in the state Constitution.
The Board engages in regular strategic planning that includes a review of research and input from key stakeholders such as elected officials, private funders, state agency leaders, and health advocates from across the state. The Board’s mission is to improve the health of every Oklahoman by reducing the state’s leading causes of death.
• Oklahoma ranks the worst among states in cardiovascular disease deaths.
TSET-funded programs are common sense investments to create real and sustainable change. TSET prevention programs are based on the best evidence available and rigorously evaluated. TSET funding supports comprehensive, statewide approaches to help fulfill the Oklahoma plans addressing tobacco use prevention and cessation, and physical activity and nutrition. These programs and policies will stem the tide of preventable disease, disability and death.
TSET also invests in cutting-edge research by Oklahoma biomedical and behavioral scientists to improve health, leverage outside research funding and increase the number of highly skilled jobs in the state. TSET has expanded research funding in Oklahoma by dedicating $45 million to the Stephenson Cancer Center and the Oklahoma Center for Adult Stem Cell Research. The Stephenson Cancer Center is home to the TSET Cancer Research Program and the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center. The Oklahoma Center for Adult Stem Cell Research is a collaborative effort between OMRF, OUHSC and OSU. Unsolicited proposals also are accepted to respond to emerging opportunities to improve the health of our state.
Early signs of progress are being realized. Oklahoma improved its tobacco prevention funding and is now ranked 11th instead of 41st in the nation. The Oklahoma Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System showed Oklahoma’s adult smoking prevalence rate moved to a new low of 23.7 percent for the first time since the endowment was established. Smoking among high school youth dropped from 23.4 percent in 2007 to 20.2 percent in 2009 and among middle school youth from 7.5 percent in 2007 to 6.5 percent in 2009, according to the Oklahoma Youth Tobacco Survey.
For more information, contact Julie Bisbee, Public Information Officer or Tracey Strader, Executive Director, Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, (405) 521-3888, toll-free (866) 530-TSET, www.tset.ok.gov.