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Trust To Provide Funding To Establish Tobacco Research Center

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Board has voted to provide $4 million over the next five years to establish the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center.

``The Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center will serve a key role in translating research to practice to help ensure that programs funded to fight tobacco addiction in Oklahoma remain among the most effective in the country,'' Tracey Strader, executive director of the trust, said during a meeting on Friday.

The research center will be established within the University of Oklahoma Cancer Institute, officials said. The board will provide $400,000 during the 2008 fiscal year, $600,000 the following fiscal year and $1 million each of the next three fiscal years.

``Because over 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S. are tobacco-related, preventing tobacco use is the single greatest factor in reducing cancer incidence and mortality,'' Ken Rowe, chair of the board of directors, said.

The research center will provide seed grants and will bring together researchers from various institutions across the state, Strader said.

In other business, board members set the board's preliminary 2008 fiscal year budget at $10.4 million.

About $1.25 million in funding will come from the state Health Department and the remainder will come from interest from the tobacco settlement endowment.

All but about $600,000, which goes for operational costs, goes to programs, such as campaigns against tobacco use and a free telephone service for those who want to quit using tobacco.

Voters in 2000 approved a constitutional amendment to permanently set aside a portion of Oklahoma's share of the tobacco settlement.

Each year, 75 percent of Oklahoma's share of the settlement is placed in the endowment for investment.

The balance of the settlement payments is appropriated by the Legislature for health and human services purposes.

Oklahoma received more than $60 million from the tobacco industry this fiscal year.
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