In 1998, the Attorneys General of 46 states, including Virginia, signed the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with the four largest tobacco manufacturers in the United States to settle state suits to recover costs associated with treating smoking-related illness. The spirit and intent of the MSA was to provide states with funding for tobacco use prevention programs that would ultimately lower the prevalence of tobacco use, thus lowering medical costs to care for citizens with tobacco-related diseases. According to the MSA, the tobacco manufacturers are projected to pay the settling states in excess of $200 billion over the next 25 years. Virginia is expected to receive $4 billion.
In 1999, the Virginia General Assembly established the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation and allocated 10% of the MSA funds to the VTSF to lead Virginia’s youth tobacco use prevention efforts.
The Foundation is established for the purposes of determining the appropriate recipients of moneys…to assist in financing efforts to restrict the use of tobacco products by minors through such means as educational and awareness programs on the health effects of tobacco use on minors and enforcement of laws restricting the distribution of tobacco products to minors. (Section 32.1-355, Code of Virginia.)
The VTSF Board of Trustees expanded its goals and objectives to include:
Educate youth to the adverse health, economic and social effects of tobacco use.
Educate parents and guardians to the adverse health, economic and social effects of tobacco use for their children in the context of strategies to educate their children.
Promote school and community-based programs that target youth tobacco use reduction.
Serve as an advocate/resource to Virginia lawmakers on legislative initiatives to reduce youth tobacco use.
Promote research to study ways to reduce the deleterious effects of tobacco, as well as to reduce the social, economic and environmental effects of tobacco use by youth.
Develop marketing strategies to promote the efforts of the Foundation.
Serve as the hub of all youth tobacco use reduction efforts in the Commonwealth by creating a comprehensive approach to the issue.
Leverage the resources of the Foundation to encourage private sector investments in order to develop public/private partnerships to address this issue.