Guest Blogger: Sarah Higginbotham, Oregon Government Relations Director
Tobacco: It’s the leading cause of preventable death in Oregon, killing 7,000 Oregonians a year. In the 1990’s Oregon said enough was enough, and joined 45 other states in fighting the nation’s biggest tobacco companies. The result was the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (TMSA), and an enormous win for public health: billions of dollars to help us fight the ugly effects of tobacco in our state.
However, the story of how those dollars have been used and will be used in Oregon remains unfinished:
The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (TMSA) was designed to help states recover some of the tobacco-related healthcare costs and to prevent people from ever starting to smoke. Unfortunately, in 2002 when initial payments were made to Oregon, the state legislature locked up the funds in ten years of debt service and not one dollar of TMSA funds were spent on tobacco prevention.
That changed in 2013 thanks to American Heart Association advocates working to ensure that the TMSA funds were for the first time invested improving in health care, restoring the public’s trust, and for the first time ever, in reducing tobacco use.
The $4 million investment made specifically into tobacco prevention represents just 3% of the total TMSA funds available in 2013. While that may seem small—but it was both symbolic and helped deliver meaningful results over the last two years in fighting Oregon’s leading cause of preventable death.
We continue that work as we head into the 2015 Oregon Legislative Session, when decision makers will have the opportunity to again make history.
This year, we’re asking the state legislature to continue this new trend of making good on the promise of the TMSA by reinvesting in public health and tobacco prevention. These investments save lives. They also save money: For every $1 invested in Oregon’s tobacco prevention program, $5 are saved down the line in medical costs and lost productivity.
We’ll need your help in asking legislators to stand with us over the next few months, so keep an eye on your inbox. In the meantime, if you have a story about how tobacco use has affected your life or loved ones, please send me a note at [email protected].