NORMAN — When Oklahoma agreed to the 1998 lawsuit settlement with tobacco companies, the state asked voters to approve a constitutional amendmnent to place a portion of the money in a tobacco trust endowment fund.
Oklahomans said yes and took a visionary path to the money’s use. While some states plowed the cash and future payments into their general revenue streams, Oklahoma chose the route of smoking prevention, smoking cessation and better health.
Today, the state ranks 6th in the nation in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and helping current smokers quit. Oklahoma spends $22.7 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 50.5 percent of the $45 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The state will collect $351.6 million in revenue from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 6.5 percent of it on tobacco prevention programs. This means Oklahoma is spending less than 7 cents of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use. Tobacco companies will spend about seven times that amount on tobacco marketing in Oklahoma, according to a report from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.
Oklahoma’s tobacco prevention program has helped reduce the state’s high school smoking rate from 33 percent in 1999 to 17.9 percent in 2011. Oklahoma anti-tobacco leaders are now wanting legislators to pass a law giving cities the right to require smoke-free workplaces, restaurants and bars. Current state law blocks cities from doing so.
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