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MT files lawsuit against big tobacco over payments from 1998 settlement

Posted at 1:34 PM, Apr 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-13 15:34:59-04

HELENA — Montana has filed a lawsuit against several tobacco companies for withholding $43 million in payments due to the state from a 1998 settlement.

Attorney General Tim Fox announced Monday his office filed the suit in Lewis and Clark County District Court for millions of dollars owed to Montana under the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement.

“No one gets to take money from Montana’s citizens, particularly when that money is owed for serious corporate wrongdoing, and especially when that money is intended to keep Montanans safe and healthy,” Fox said.

“The $43 million these tobacco companies have wrongfully withheld could have been used to prevent Montanans from developing lung diseases that now make them potentially more susceptible to COVID-19, or insure more of our children earlier and longer,” he added.

“It is unconscionable that more Montanans could live healthier lives if it weren’t for the intentional deception of these companies,” Fox concluded.

Twenty-two years ago, Montana joined every other state and territory in the country to sue the largest tobacco companies for decades of deception about the health hazards of smoking. The two sides reached a settlement agreement where the tobacco companies promised annual payments to restrict marketing practices. In exchange, the lawsuit would be ended.

The Montana Department of Justice says for more than a decade, the tobacco companies have withheld millions of dollars owed to Montana.

The payments from the tobacco companies fund smoking prevention and cessation programs and other critical health programs. These programs protect the health and safety of children by working to prevent them from becoming “replacement smokers.”

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around $440 million is spent on tobacco related healthcare costs in Montana.