THE TOBACCO SETTLEMENT: IS IT BEING USED APPROPRIATLY
Since 2001 the citizens of Oklahoma have lived under a voter approved Tobacco Settlement Endowment Fund that has proven itself to be cumbersome and untrustworthy. They have failed to keep up with the advances in smoking cessation and have failed to maintain the growth of their agency. They've outraged the citizens of the state by offering exorbitant salaries to top executives that even the Governor had to deny. It's leadership and board is stuffed with political cronies that are out to put their mark in the History books. They have placed people on the board that have helped them politically and have intentionally snubbed the voice of the Common Citizen. It is well past time that this agency and the way it is ran receives an overhaul.
What brought our attention to this story was this article Salary For New OK TSET Chief Executive Causing Controversy - News9.com - Oklahoma City, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports |. The proposal was the creation of a new position they created. After a $35,000.00 expense to the citizens of the state for a nationwide search they finally settled on former Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas. The salary she was offered was $250,000.00 dollars a year. According to reports compiles by the Oklahoma Watch which we highly recommend that you open the link and read it for yourself here TOBACCO SETTLEMENT ENDOWMENT TRUST | Oklahoma Watch | State Salaries, this would have more than doubled the pay of the top executive of this agency. In fact it would have raised the salary to a point that it was $103,000.00 more than what our Chief Executive, the Governor, makes a year. This is a prime example of an agency out of control.
The next article of interest we found was this Free Market Friday: Government is force – The Journal Record. This is another link we urge you to open and read. This will show you that the funds from the tobacco settlement agreement are not being used to help people stop their addiction to tobacco only. It's also being used to fight obesity and sugary drinks. We must ask, What do they have to do with the stop smoking campaign? From what we can tell nothing. It's acting like a slush fund for the Department of Health.
The next article of interest we found was this Mary Fallin disapproves of controversial pay raise for Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust's new CEO | KFOR.com. The Governor disapproved of the pay raise and rightly so. We can't help but wonder though as a sitting board member of TSET; does her involvement represent a conflict of interest? We feel that it does. This could present problems later down the road.
The next article of interest we found was this Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust - Wikipedia. This is well worth your time in opening the link and reading. As a Tobacco Settlement Trust we cannot figure out how this would relate to obesity. It would appear to us that obesity would fall under the Department of Health purview not a Tabacco Settlement Endowment Trust. This makes us suspect that there is a real possibility that the Department of Health's budget dollar is being stretched a little further with the aid of funds supposedly set aside to help Oklahoman's to stop smoking. Both are worthy causes; however when one goes by Tabacco Settlement Endowment Fund and fails to use the latest in medically approved treatment for smoking cessation the smokers are getting short changed.
Not all of the information about this rouge agency is bad. In fact this article History | Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust The overall settlement between the Tobacco industry and forty six states was settled in 1998. Oklahoma was the first state to Constitutionally protect its settlement funds in 2000.
The next article of interest we found was this Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust |. Once again this is taken from their web site. We actually found this to be amusing. Most people who haven't forgotten how to critically think on a subject are well aware that research scientist funded by either a state entity or an individual company is going to produce the results that their employer wants. These people at TSET are thinking they can fool the public with their words and not support it with any documentation. That doesn't work in today's society.
Now before we go any further in the TSET pages themselves, we felt we needed to bring this to your attention Don't touch Oklahoma's Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund. As we don't have an attorney on staff we aren't even sure that their funds can be touched. We do know that using the Tobacco Funding for purposes unrelated to smoking cessation is outside the purview of their mandate. We also feel that the Health and Human Services Committees of both Chambers should take into consideration the program assistance they receive from TSET and reduce the budget for the Health Department appropriately.
The next part of their site we question is the Incentive Grants listed here Incentive Grants | Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust. We question why they are involved in programs to promote healthy eating and physical activity. Promoting a tobacco free lifestyle is the last thing on their list here. Are these people trying to assume the duties of the health department?
The next item on their site we found was this Healthy Communities Incentive Grants | Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust. Although there are good intentions involved, this is nothing more than bribery from TSET to the various communities to get those communities to place more and more public areas off limits to the use of tobacco. This is not helping the smoker to stop smoking. It's just limiting where they can smoke. To think the people who came up with this idea and approved it are making over $120,000.00 a year is an indication that they aren't hiring the brightest of people at the TSET Agency.
The next article from their site we found was this Oklahoma TSET Phase I Program. Here we have TSET funding research and phase 1 studies on an experimental drug when they haven't even funded the full range of smoking cessation drugs on the market today. We admit that they do fund patches, lozenges and gum. What they don't fund is a product that requires a Doctor's prescription called Chantix or even Wellbutrin. The people doing the study know they are working for the state and will most likely give TSET the results they want even if they are less effective than current medications on the market.
The next item from their site we found was this TSET - Boathouse District. This is really nothing more than a brag sheet about the number of schools they have visited and their partnership with the OKC Boathouse District.
The next interesting item from their site we found was this TSET | Oklahoma Bioscience Association. This page actually is trying to convince people that the money they spend on research will bring in money for additional research from around the nation. It's a promising idea, but they don't offer any documentation or evidence of any sorts to support such a claim. If they are going to make such public claims they should document the proof.
The next article of interest we found was this 'Vape' activists seek 'less insane' e-cigarette law - Watchdog.org . We urge you to open this link and read the story for yourself. What we are seeing is TSET offering "Grants" we prefer to call them by what they truly are bribes to local officials to close the loophole and shut down the ability of people to vape on city property. When asked for a Freedom of Information Request on the statistics to justify the treatment and proof of the danger six months ago, we never heard back from them. That would make it a bunch of hot air in our books.
The next article of interest we found was this UPDATE: E-cigarette users fuming over ban on Ada city property | KFOR.com. Now this report highlights Ada, but it also mentions Maude, Tecumseh and Shawnee. These communities have all instituted Vaping bans. These bans are in place for pure simple greed. Ada City Councilman Bryan Morris says "Ada could receive grant money for including e-cigarettes in an outdoor tobacco ban they approved October 21st." This smacks of bribery from an agency in state government.
The next article we found was this Few dare call it bribery: OK grants, e-cigs, and another brick in the wall - Watchdog.org. This is an article that should be read by every single politician in the state of Oklahoma. We urge you to open the link and read the article from one of the finest journalist in the state. We are proud to say that we stand among those who call this bribery. It looks like the Governor and the Health Department have even fallen for the load of manure that TSET is spreading. TSET is in desperate need of adult supervision.
The next article of interest we found was this Smoking Rates in Oklahoma Decline to an All-Time Low - Oklahoma State Department of Health. This again is information we requested information on through the Freedom of Information Act six months ago and never heard a word back from them. We have no idea if the numbers they quote are real or fake. We can say that with all the money that TSET has available to them they are doing a very poor job at getting people to stop smoking. Real or fake these numbers attest to that.
All of this information that we have been denied access to has led to this https://www.ok.gov/health2/documents/EcigEO_ExecutiveOrder2013-43.pdf. This is the Executive Order signed by Governor Fallin that eliminated the use of e-cigarettes on state property. Now this E.O. claims the Health Department indicated that there were toxins and unknown chemicals. This is a little pre-mature. With TSET running their own studies and the Health Department refusing to supply any information on any studies they have completed to date, the most prudent course of action would have been to wait for those test to be completed before taking such action.
The next article of interest we found was this State Tobacco Settlement Funds Not Spent 'Up Front' | Oklahoma Watch. We thank the reporters at Oklahoma Watch for the research they did on this. Although we feel the TSET program is currently being abused by the people in charge and currently fail to use all current treatments available, when first established, Oklahoma did it right. We have the voters of the state to thank for that. We also believe it's time for some stronger oversight of TSET. They are beginning to run amuck with their assumed powers.
The next article of interest we found was this OAG Press Release: State Receives Almost $90 Million in Tobacco Funds. This is a News Release from the Office of the Attorney General from 2009. Our AG at that time was Drew Edmondson. This indicated that the state of Oklahoma had received $89,825,336.54 from the trustees of the tobacco settlement fund. It also indicates that only $67 million of that amount went to the TSET account which gave them a balance of $384 million dollars. Oklahoma's total share of the settlement is estimated to be $2.03 billion dollars over 25 years. That raises a question. What are we going to do with TSET once the money runs out? Remember there are no current state funds being provided to this program. Those funds will run out in less than 10 years. Here's an idea. Instead of bribing towns to ban e-cigarettes let's expand the list of medications available. Add the current medications known to work like Chantix and Wellbutrin. We know, that's too easy for you bureaucrats to understand.
In closing we would recommend that the Oklahoma State Auditor conduct a complete audit of the TSET program. We additionally ask the Governor to direct the Department of Health and TSET to make all research material available on line. We further ask the Governor to withdraw her Executive Order concerning the use of e-cigarettes on state property until such time as the Department of Health and TSET can prove that the vapor actually contains toxic substances. We further ask that the Governor declare the bribery of city officials to declare e-cigarettes banned on city property as an incentive for added financial reward outside their purview and a waste of tax payers money. We would further ask that TSET fully explain on their web site and on the major news networks and newspapers in the state of Oklahoma why and what Obesity has to do with the tobacco settlement.