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TSET Executive Director comments on tobacco industry lawsuit challenging cigarette price increase

OKLAHOMA CITY (June 8, 2017) – Attorneys representing two tobacco companies on Wednesday asked the Oklahoma State Supreme Court to consider the legality of a cessation policy package that includes language that keeps all state-owned and state-leased property tobacco free, encourages additional cessation strategies and increases the price of cigarettes.

Attorneys for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Phillip Morris USA, two cigarette retailers, a wholesale company and three Oklahoma residents have challenged the legislation signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin in May. In court filings, the plaintiffs specifically question the price increase that is expected to take effect in late August, saying the increase would “likely decrease sales” of cigarettes in Oklahoma.

"It’s not surprising that Big Tobacco would attempt to block the implementation of a fee that increases the price of a pack of cigarettes and the other accompanying policy measures that would reduce smoking in our state, increase quit attempts, and save lives," said TSET Executive Director John Woods.  "The tobacco industry has shown time and time again they will stop at nothing to protect their profits. By blocking meaningful public policies that keep young people from starting to smoke, the tobacco industry is attempting to preserve a pipeline of future smokers and replace those smokers who have died from tobacco-related illness and cancer."

The TSET Board of Directors have voiced their support for proven policy efforts that reduce adult smoking and prevent 28,500 young people from becoming daily smokers. Click here for the resolution of support.

TSET does not receive funding from taxes or fees on tobacco products. TSET is funded by the earnings from the voter-approved Tobacco Settlement Endowment Fund, which receives 75 percent of each annual Master Settlement Agreement payment to the state. The remaining 25 percent is split between the legislature and the Attorney General’s office. Payments to the state will continue as long as cigarettes are sold nationally.

However, TSET funds grants and programs to prevent and reduce tobacco use, including the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline (1-800-QUIT-NOW), which offers free services to Oklahomans who want to quit using tobacco. Coaching services offered through the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline include text and email support, phone and web coaching, texting and free patches, gum or lozenges.

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The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) serves as a partner and bridge builder for organizations working towards shaping a healthier future for all Oklahomans. TSET provides leadership at the intersections of health by working across the state, by cultivating innovative and life-changing research, and by working across public and private sectors to develop, support, implement and evaluate creative strategies to take advantage of emerging opportunities to improve the public's health.
TSET. Better Lives Through Better Health.