Posted by: audreybenenati | January 22, 2010

Legacy(SM) Files Appeal Today to Ohio Supreme Court

Former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery and Ohio and National Public Health Leaders File Friend of the Court Briefs in Support

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ –Today, Legacy(SM) — a national public health foundation devoted to tobacco cessation and prevention — asked the Ohio Supreme Court to hear the appeal in its case seeking to preserve tobacco funds and the life-saving tobacco control programs they support in Ohio.

Former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery, former Ohio Senate President Richard H. Finan and former Director of the Ohio Department of Health, J. Nick Baird MD, and a broad array of Ohio and national public health organizations and leaders filed Friend of the Court briefs in support of Legacy’s request that the Court hear the case. General Montgomery, Finan and Baird were instrumental in creating the Ohio Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Endowment Fund and, in their brief, explained that the General Assembly specifically intended that the Endowment Fund be permanently dedicated to tobacco use prevention and cessation programs for the benefit of Ohioans.

The Ohio and national public health organizations that have urged the court to hear the appeal include the Academy of Medicine Of Cleveland & Northern Ohio, the American Heart Association, the American Heart Association Great Rivers Affiliate, the American Lung Association, the American Lung Association Of Ohio, the American Cancer Society Ohio Division, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the Association Of Ohio Health Commissioners, the Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids, the Ohio Public Health Association, and the Ohio State Medical Association.

A third brief was filed by the Citizen’s Commission to Protect the Truth which is comprised of former Surgeons General, Directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Secretaries of Health and Human Services/ Health, Education and Welfare.

"The fact that our appeal is supported by the Ohio officials responsible for creating the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Endowment Fund as well as numerous Ohio and national public health organizations and leaders, speaks volumes about the extraordinary importance of this case," said Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH and president and CEO of Legacy. "We have spent our own funds on this litigation and if successful, are committed to preserving the endowment funds to be spent solely in Ohio on Ohio-based tobacco control programs. I want to reiterate that from the outset of this litigation, we have stated unequivocally that these funds will be spent solely on effective programs in Ohio to save lives from tobacco’s deadly toll. Accusations suggesting otherwise are simply false," she said.

Today’s action came in response to Legacy’s deepdisappointment in the New Year’s Eve decision of the Ohio Court of Appeals of Franklin County, Tenth Appellate District. In that ruling, the appeals court reversed a lower court’s order permanently enjoining the State from dissolving the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Endowment Fund. That decision represented a major step backward in the effort spearheaded by Legacy and others to safeguard the state’s tobacco prevention money for its intended purpose: to save Ohioans’ lives. Two Ohioans were also plaintiffs in the case: Robert Miller and David Weinmann, both longtime smokers who relied on services and programs supported by the Ohio Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Endowment Fund to quit smoking, brought claims on behalf of the intended beneficiaries of OTPF – Ohio smokers.

Legacy, a national public health foundation created as a result of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), stepped forward in April 2008 to help safeguard the tobacco settlement dollars Ohio had set aside for tobacco control. After the Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation (OTPF) signed a contract with Legacy to preserve tobacco prevention and cessation efforts in the state, the legislature voted to abolish both OTPF and its endowment. The News Year’s Eve decision by the Tenth Appellate District to reverse the permanent injunction represents a step backward for the health of Ohioans.

The 1998 MSA provided more than $200 billion to be paid to the states over 26 years in recognition of the lives and money lost to tobacco. To ensure that a substantial portion of its recovery was spent specifically on tobacco control, Ohio established OTPF and created an endowment for it. Most states have spent only a small fraction, if any, of their MSA funds to mitigate the tragic impact of the tobacco epidemic which claims the lives of more than 400,000 Americans each year.

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