NORMAN — State Treasurer Ken Miller announced the receipt of one of two annual tobacco settlement payments on Wednesday. The $64.8 million payment brings the total paid to the state under the Master Settlement Agreement since 1999, the year payments began, to $1.04 billion. An additional payment is expected later this week.
Miller said 75 percent of the annual payment, or $48.6 million, went directly into the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund as mandated by the Oklahoma Constitution.
“The money received is being invested to generate additional funding for the important work supported by the tobacco trust – including cancer research and fighting tobacco addiction,” said Miller, who chairs the trust fund’s board of investors. “The people of Oklahoma showed true wisdom in making sure this money is protected to generate investment income to help them live longer and healthier lives.”
This payment brings the trust fund balance to more than $797 million. The remainder of the annual payment is divided between a fund used for health care-related appropriation by the Legislature and the attorney general’s evidence fund.
The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund was created by a voter-approved 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 $151 million in earnings have been certified. More than $33.3 million in earnings 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.