TSET Officials OK That Several Tobacco Bills Fell by the Wayside in Shortened Session

May 19, 2020

Oklahomans will likely vote this fall on reducing the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust’s share of annual payments under the state’s master settlement agreement.

A resolution passed by the state legislature would cut TSET's share from 75% to 25%. Lawmakers are looking to use a chunk of the roughly $75 million a year for the state’s share of Medicaid expansion costs.

TSET Director of Public Information and Outreach Thomas Larson said with an abbreviated session, however, the legislature dropped several bills the agency was monitoring because they could have increased tobacco use.

"All of those bills that changed tobacco definitions died in the legislature. Another bill that would have reintroduced smoking to Oklahoma prisons also died," Larson said.

Larson said bills changing tobacco definitions could have let new products avoid being labeled as tobacco or even avoid being taxed.

TSET uses its more than $1 billion endowment to award grants not only for tobacco prevention, but also for things like healthy living initiatives, a use that occasionally rankles conservative lawmakers.