In 1998, Oregon joined 45 other states in negotiating the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with major tobacco companies to recover states’ tobacco-related health care costs and to protect children from the dangers of tobacco. Since then, Oregon has received more than $1 billion in Tobacco MSA payments and has spent the bulk of that revenue retiring debt. It saddens me to inform you that not one penny has gone towards tobacco prevention.
For the first time in 10 years, we have an opportunity to redirect the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement money. With the debt retirement that has tied up these funds for the past decade fulfilled, Oregon has a second chance to invest the Tobacco MSA’s objectives: preventing and reducing tobacco use, especially among children, and lessening the financial toll of tobacco on Oregon.
This is my first session in Salem, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that we are faced with a phenomenal opportunity. Last year as a candidate for the Oregon House of Representatives, I promised each of you that I would fight to improve the quality of life for our families by working to implement policies that put our children first and promote affordable access to health care. That’s exactly why, as your State Representative I’m working to ensure the Tobacco MSA funds are invested in tobacco prevention. Here in Lincoln County our rate of tobacco related illness and death is higher than the state average. We owe it to our children to do the right thing.
Tobacco costs Oregon $1.25 billion in annual direct medical expenditures. Investing in prevention and wellness efforts is an investment in future generations of Oregonians and will help reduce the health care costs associated with tobacco use.
As Oregonians, we often find ourselves leading the nation, especially when it comes to health related policies. Oregon is one of many states that tied up the Settlement Agreement funds in a way not envisioned in the original 1998 settlement. We’ve been given a second opportunity to be leaders on this issue. How we prioritize spending newly available funds matters. We must fulfill the promise of the 1998 settlement agreement by protecting our children from the harm of tobacco use and investing in tobacco prevention.
Representative David Gomberg
House District 10
900 Court Street NE
Salem, OR 97301