Nebraska to Sue 4 Tobacco Companies
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Attorney General Don Stenberg said Thursday he will sue four tobacco companies that didn't participate in the multibillion dollar settlement between 46 states and the tobacco industry in 1998.
Nebraska and 45 other states agreed to settle claims against tobacco companies for the states' costs of treating smoking-related illnesses. The companies agreed to pay the states more than $200 billion.
Nebraska expects to receive $1.2 billion over 25 years from the settlement from Philip Morris Cos., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Brown & Williamson Tobacco and Lorillard Tobacco.
The Legislature then passed a law requiring companies that did not take part in the settlement to place money in an escrow account each year based on the amount of tobacco products they sell in the state. The law is meant to put money aside for any future judgments against the companies.
Stenberg said he will sue Quality Tobacco Distributors of Florida, Low Ball Inc. of Nevada, PTI Inc. of Washington and Jash International of Illinois for not complying with the law.
He said he will ask a judge to block those companies from selling products in Nebraska if they don't comply.
Representatives of the companies could not be reached for immediate comment.
The cigarette companies also agreed, among other things, to end advertising of tobacco on billboards and public transportation such as taxis and to stop marketing tobacco paraphernalia like hats and T-shirts that are particularly popular with youths.
State health officials have said smoking and related illnesses and deaths cost Nebraska at least $40 million a year. They estimate 2,400 Nebraska residents die every year from smoking.