OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – State Treasurer Ken Miller Wednesday announced receipt of a $76 million annual payment from the tobacco industry under the national Master Settlement Agreement. With the latest payment, Oklahoma has received a total of $1.32 billion since 1999.
Miller said 75 percent of the annual receipts, or $57 million, went immediately into the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund as required by the Oklahoma Constitution.
“The endowment is generating investment income to fund vital work supported by the tobacco trust, including cancer research and combating tobacco addiction,” said Miller, who chairs the trust fund’s board of investors. “As approved by the voters, these funds are being used to improve the quality of life for our people.”
This year’s payment brings the trust fund balance to $1.02 billion. The remainder of the annual payment is divided between a fund used for health care-related appropriations by the Legislature and the attorney general’s evidence fund.
The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund was created by a constitutional amendment 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. Since June 2001, more than $290 million in earnings have been certified. Earnings of $46.28 million were certified last 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.
The national Master Settlement Agreement, announced in November 1998, imposed sweeping changes in tobacco advertising, banned tobacco companies from targeting children, allocated funding for tobacco education efforts and provided annual payments based on the number of cigarettes sold in the country. Payments will continue as long as cigarettes are sold.