OKLAHOMA CITY (Aug. 27, 2021) — The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) Board of Directors passed three resolutions Thursday affirming TSET’s mission and structure and calling for action on emerging nicotine products and tobacco control laws. The unanimous votes came at the Board’s regular meeting on August 26.
In one resolution, the TSET Board resolved to continue its commitment to act in accordance with the will of Oklahoma voters, who reaffirmed their support of TSET’s mission and independence by an overwhelming majority in November 2020.
“Twenty years ago, Oklahomans had the foresight to understand that smoking and obesity are public health crises that have enormous impact on our state and require consistent, sustained investment to address,” said Michelle Stephens, chair of the TSET Board of Directors. “There are no easy fixes and real change must come from a collaborative and comprehensive approach over the long-term, including investment in research, community programs and state policy. Voters understood that then and reinforced that commitment in 2020 when they upheld TSET’s mandate.”
As established by constitutional mandate in 2000, TSET invests 75% of state payments received by the Master Settlement Agreement and utilizes only earnings from the endowment to fund research, prevention and programs that improve health for all Oklahomans. TSET works to reduce the main causes of preventable death in Oklahoma, tobacco use and obesity and ensure that funds are protected for long-range programs that will benefit Oklahomans in perpetuity. Since TSET’s inception, Oklahoma’s smoking rate has dropped 10x faster than in similar states, Oklahoma has avoided $1 billion in direct medical costs and saved 42,000 lives.
In a second resolution, the TSET Board called on the Oklahoma Legislature to include new and emerging tobacco products in Oklahoma’s statutory definition of tobacco products and to limit advertising of all tobacco products, especially on social media and at retail locations that target youth.
New and emerging products such as nicotine pouches, toothpicks and dissolvables are currently exempt from state tobacco excise taxes, making them more affordable and accessible to youth. Oklahoma’s tobacco taxes are an effective tool in tobacco prevention and source of state revenue for cancer research and public health.
“As we’ve seen with vaping, Big Tobacco is evolving to hook a new generation of users on their deadly products,” Stephens said. “It’s important that tobacco control laws evolve just as quickly to protect Oklahoma youth from a lifetime of addiction.”
Finally, the TSET Board called on the Oklahoma Legislature to repeal a law that prohibits local governments from adopting smoke-free workplace ordinances that are stricter than state law. Second-hand smoke can lead to heart disease, lung cancer and stroke, and there is no safe level of exposure.
Currently, Oklahoma is one of only three states that lacks a comprehensive clean indoor air law and also preempts local governments from enacting their own stricter measures. While research shows that smoke-free laws do not have adverse impacts on local businesses, they are the only way to fully protect patrons and staff from secondhand smoke.
“Clean air is a right of all Oklahomans,” Stephens said. “It’s far past time that communities had the power to act in the best interest of residents and protect all workers from the dangers of secondhand smoke.”
The full resolutions can be found at TSET.ok.gov/content/resolutions.
The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) serves as a partner and bridge builder for organizations shaping a healthier future for all Oklahomans. TSET provides leadership at the intersections of health by working with local coalitions and initiatives across the state, cultivating innovative and life-changing research, and 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. To learn more, visit TSET.ok.gov.
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