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Fox Announces Suit To Collect From Big Tobacco

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox announced April 13 that his office has filed suit in Lewis and Clark County District Court against tobacco companies for monies owed the state under a master settlement agreement. The agreement, said Fox, stipulates that the companies owe Montana millions of dollars. He said a total of $43 million is owed at present.

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

Montana and most other states sued the largest tobacco companies more than two decades ago for practicing deception about the health hazards of smoking. As part of the settlement agreement, the tobacco companies promised annual payments to Montana. They also promised to restrict marketing practices. Fox’s suit claims the tobacco companies have broken the settlement agreement and improperly withheld millions of dollars owed to Montana. This year’s payment is due April 15.

Payments from the tobacco companies fund smoking prevention programs, assistance for quitting smoking and other critical health programs. The state uses the annual settlement funds for a variety of public health programs, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, suicide prevention, children’s mental health programs and communicable disease programs.

Fox did not provide a timeline for the lawsuit, but estimated that the case should go to trial or be settled by early 2021.

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