Tobacco Prevention in Oregon

Do you remember the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement from 1998? Many people have forgotten about it but in 1998, 46 states and the “Big 4” tobacco companies entered into a $221 billion settlement, known as the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (TMSA), to compensate states for past and future smoking-caused expenditures.

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As part of the agreement each of the states gave up any future legal claims they might have based on the cigarette companies’ actions at issue in the settled lawsuits. In exchange, the tobacco companies signing the agreement agreed to make annual payments in perpetuity to the states to compensate them for taxpayer money that would be spent for health-care costs connected to tobacco-related illness and to provide significant funding for the implementation of important tobacco-related public health measures. The TMSA also sets standards, and imposes restrictions on, the sale and marketing of cigarettes.

The intent was clear: prevent and reduce tobacco use, especially among children, and lessen the financial toll of tobacco on the states. TMSA remains the largest civil litigation settlement in US History.

In Oregon, less than one percent, about $8 million, of the $1.4 billion in funding from the TMSA has gone to prevent youth from becoming addicted to tobacco. By comparison, the tobacco industry spends over $100 million in marketing to Oregonians (including youth and children) each year. In 2013, the Oregon Legislature made an investment of TMSA resources into the Tobacco Prevention and Education Program (TPEP) for the first time in the history of the settlement. Two budget cycles of investments from TMSA funding into the TPEP program moved forward local prevention efforts in the retail environment where we know, according to the Truth Initiative, the tobacco industry targeted $8.6 billion of marking resources, in 2014 alone.

We know tobacco prevention works. According to a study by the Oregon Health Authority, The Health & Economic Benefits of Public Health Modernization, an additional investment of $1.6 million in tobacco prevention would result in an estimated: 534 fewer smokers; a savings of $6.5 million in medical costs over the former smokers’ lifetimes. That is more than $4 saved for every $1 spent.  But at the very end of the 2017 session, the TMSA dollars allocation to TPEP and so hard fought for by tobacco control advocates, were stripped, creating a 22% cut to tobacco prevention programs in Oregon. The last time the TPEP program saw cuts this significant the rates of tobacco use went up in Oregon.

While we couldn’t stop what happened in 2017 we will continue our fight to restore funding during the 2019 legislative session when the next budget is determined.

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