Tobacco Settlement Proceeds to Be Released to States, Tobacco Sales Down During First Year Since Settlement
WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- The national tobacco settlement reached another significant milestone today as National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) President and Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire announced that tobacco payment
The tobacco settlement, which was announced last November, reached final approval status today. That means the Master Settlement Agreement has completed a legal process and been formally court approved in at least 45 jurisdictions. States that have not reached formal approval of the Master Settlement Agreement include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.
Minnesota, Florida, Texas, and Mississippi reached separate settlement agreements with the tobacco companies.
With final approval, tobacco industry payments will move from interest- bearing escrow accounts to state treasuries. All states with approval will receive their first payment within two weeks followed by payments in January and April of 2000. Tobacco payments will continue in perpetuity and will total about $206 billion over the first 25 years nationwide.
General Gregoire said it appears total cigarette consumption has declined by up to 7.5 percent in 1999 over 1998. General Gregoire attributed the decline to a number of factors including price increases imposed by tobacco companies after the settlement and greater awareness of the health effects of tobacco.
``The early numbers are very encouraging,'' General Gregoire said. ``But we have to recognize that historically sales rebound with time after a price hike.''
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every year smoking kills 430,000 people and costs the nation more than $100 billion. Health officials say that most people can avoid smoking if they can be kept tobacco-free during adolescence.
``We've made considerable progress in the fight to reduce tobacco usage since 46 Attorneys General agreed to the settlement last November 23,'' said NAAG Tobacco Chair and North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp.
Under the settlement:
* More than 14,000 tobacco billboard advertisements nationwide have been torn down or replaced with anti-smoking messages.
* Outdoor advertising on all public transit systems and in arenas, stadiums, shopping malls, and video arcades has been removed forever.
* Joe Camel, the infamous icon of tobacco marketing to children, has been retired forever along with all other cartoon characters used to advertise tobacco products.
* Tobacco merchandise popular with young people -- such as hats, shirts, backpacks, and trinkets -- were banned forever as of July 1, 1999.
* Two of three industry trade groups that helped hide the truth about the effects of tobacco use on public health have been dissolved. The final trade group will be dissolved 45 days after final approval of the tobacco settlement.
* A web site, http://www.tobaccoresolution.com, containing all formerly secret industry documents uncovered in state lawsuits, is now available for public viewing on the Internet.
* Tobacco sponsorships have been severely restricted, including a total ban on events that have significant percentages of youth in attendance.
* Free samples of tobacco products, which were widely available as handouts or through the mail one year ago, are now permitted only in adult-only facilities.
* Payments for tobacco product placement in movies, videos, and other media were banned.
* Lobbying against a variety of tobacco control laws and ordinances was banned.
* Consent decrees bolstered by a $54 million industry-financed national enforcement fund were filed in every state.
* The American Legacy Foundation, which will oversee a sustained $1.45 billion nationwide public education campaign, was created in March, 1999,
and has established a web site at http://www.americanlegacy.org.
Final approval of the settlement was reached seven months earlier than stipulated in the Master Settlement Agreement. According to the agreement, the settlement would become final when either 80 percent of the states representing 80 percent of the tobacco payments exhaust their individual appeal processes or June 30, 2000, whichever came first.
States settling with the major tobacco companies in 1998 include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Settling territories include American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.