Drew Edmondson (D)

OKLAHOMA CITY (Legal Newsline) - Attorney General Drew Edmondson has called on the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust's board of directors to fund the operation of a cancer research and treatment center.

In a letter to the trust's board, Edmondson called for a $100 million, 20-year commitment, which Edmondson said would be the organization's signature achievement, to the OU Cancer Institute at the University of Oklahoma.

"Funding a cancer research and treatment center easily falls within the board's mandate," Edmondson said. "Cutting-edge cancer research, looking both at what causes cancer and exploring possible cures, is the next logical step for the tobacco trust."

The OU Cancer Institute estimates that $1.5 billion each year is spent by Oklahomans seeking cancer treatment outside the state, Edmondson said.

"It's an economic reality that building a research and treatment facility here at home will create jobs, grow the economy and bring research funding to our state," Edmondson said. "But these concerns are secondary to the impact a world-class facility will have on Oklahoma patients."

Edmondson, in calling for a minimum annual commitment of $5 million over a 20-year period, also praised the trust for its success in lessening the incidence youth smoking, reducing overall smoking rates and improving the health of Oklahomans.

"The trust's first objective must be to stop potential new smokers, especially children, from ever lighting that first cigarette," Edmondson said. "Second is helping current smokers kick the addiction.

The tobacco trust was set up a decade ago following the attorney general's support for the creation of a constitutionally-protected trust to manage the proceeds from the over $200 billion tobacco Master Settlement Agreement he helped negotiate.

Established at Edmondson's urging, the tobacco trust manages those settlement funds and ensures that they are spent fighting tobacco addiction and treating and combating tobacco-related diseases.

"Funding a cancer research and treatment center easily falls within the board's mandate," Edmondson said. "Cutting-edge cancer research, looking both at what causes cancer and exploring possible cures, is the next logical step for the tobacco trust."

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