Guest Blogger: Christine Wooley
After decades of deceiving the public about the dangers of tobacco use, the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (TMSA) was signed in 1998. This landmark legislation required tobacco companies to pay states millions of dollars to compensate states for tobacco-related healthcare costs and to advance the public health; Oregon alone received $120 million. However these funds have never been used for public health purposes, instead directed to fill budget gaps year after year.
This year we have a tremendous opportunity to redirect a portion of the TMSA funds ($120 million for the 2013-2015 biennium) to their original purpose. The American Heart Association and other healthcare advocacy organizations have proposed allocating these funds to community care organizations at the heart of Oregon’s healthcare transformation, children’s health and wellness programs and Oregon’s Tobacco Prevention and Education Program which helps smokers quit and keeps youth from starting.
As an Oregonian and a granddaughter that lost her grandmother to a smoking related death, as a friend that recently lost a dear friend to lung cancer, and a woman that tried smoking and fortunately stopped, I know that with tobacco prevention programs we can save lives. I feel that we must capitalize on this opportunity to direct these funds to their original purpose. We must help all Oregonians live a healthy life, especially our kids.