Attorney General Fox Sues Tobacco Companies for Withholding $43 Million from Montana
Attorney General Tim Fox announced today his office filed suit in Lewis and Clark County District Court to hold several tobacco companies accountable 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,” Attorney General Tim 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,” Fox added.
Twenty-two years ago, Montana and every other state and territory in the country sued the largest tobacco companies for many decades of lethal deception about the health hazards of smoking. Their deception caused the deaths of many Montanans, leaving the state to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in related healthcare costs. As part of the historic settlement agreement, the tobacco companies promised annual payments to Montana and to restrict marketing practices. In exchange, Montana ended its lawsuit.
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.” The agreement ending the lawsuit from Montana and the other states is called the Master Settlement Agreement. Montana uses the annual settlement funds for a variety of public health programs, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, smoking cessation and prevention programs, suicide prevention, children’s mental health programs, and communicable disease programs.
For more than a decade, the tobacco companies have broken the settlement agreement and improperly withheld millions of dollars owed to Montana. This year’s payment is due on April 15.
More information about the distribution of Montana’s tobacco settlement money is available online: https://leg.mt.gov/content/Publications/fiscal/leg_reference/Brochures/tobacco-settlement-2018.pdf