Attorney General Tim Fox announced Monday his office filed suit in Lewis and Clark County 1st District Court against big tobacco for $43 million owed to Montana under the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement.
Defendants include: Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, American Tobacco Corp, Brown and Williamson Tobacco, Lorillard Tobacco Company, United States Tobacco Company, British American Tobacco Company, RJR Nabisco and Hill and Knowlton.
“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. It is unconscionable that more Montanans could live healthier lives if it weren’t for the intentional deception of these companies.”
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.
Montana reached a settlement agreement where the tobacco companies promised annual payments and to restrict marketing practices. In exchange, the lawsuit would be ended.
The State says the last payment was for 2004, and only after litigation.
“Tobacco companies again have delayed and stalled and done all manner of tactics described in the documents that we filed where they have used as an excuse that they haven’t settled with other states as a reason to delay in getting any money to Montana,” said Fox. “It’s a false premise on which to base those decisions.”
The payments from the tobacco companies fund Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid, smoking prevention, cessation programs, suicide programs and more.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, $440 million is spent on tobacco related healthcare costs in Montana, and around 1,600 people die in Montana each year from smoking related illness each year.