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Who Is Really Benefiting From the Tobacco Settlement Money?

ALERT: The Master Settlement Agreement involves a 1998 settlement reached between the nation's four largest tobacco companies and attorneys general from 46 states and territories. Despite recent reports on the internet, there is no provision for payments to individuals.The West Virginia Attorney General issued this alert in response to the incorrect information currently circulating.


You may or may not remember this, but there was a time when the tobacco industry even more openly and brazenly marketed tobacco products to our kids. It was then and continues today to be their business plan: they hook kids young, which can lead to a lifetime of addiction and tobacco industry profits.

And their profits come at our expense: Tobacco use causes or makes worse a whole host of diseases and conditions, including lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Tobacco also eventually kills over a third of people who use it.

In the 1990s, policymakers finally stood up to the industry and acted. Congress held hearings and state attorneys general sued the tobacco companies. In 1998, almost every state in the U.S. came together to approve the largest civil settlement in U.S. history, the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). This court settlement between 46 states and the District of Columbia and the major tobacco companies forced them to end some of their more egregious marketing practices and provided for annual payments to the states for some of the medical costs of caring for the 16 million Americans who have smoking-caused illnesses. The settlement was huge: $206 billion over the first 25 years and the payments continue indefinitely into the future.*

When the settlement was signed, states made promises about how this money would be used to reduce tobacco use. Some states such as Alaska, North Dakota and Oklahoma have done the right thing by setting aside portions of these dollars for programs to prevent and reduce tobacco use based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs -- 2014. However, the vast majority of states have failed to use the funds for their intended purpose - some have used them to fill budget holes or pay off debts. A couple of states have even in the past used it to benefit the tobacco industry. For instance, South Carolina gave 15 percent of settlement funds to tobacco farmers affected by the drop in prices for their crop**, while North Carolina used 75 percent of its settlement funds for tobacco production. Some of those North Carolina funds went to private tobacco producers, covering tobacco-curing equipment, a tobacco auction hall, video production for a tobacco museum and plumbing for a tobacco processing plant.1

This misuse of tobacco settlement funds continues to this day. According to the "State of Tobacco Control 2016" report, 40 states and the District of Columbia got a failing grade for spending less than 50 percent of what the CDC recommends should be spent on tobacco prevention programs in its Best Practices. That's over 80 percent of states that failed the test!

Image of half circle pie chart with small cut made to represent 2 cents per dollar

In total, states are spending close to $470 million on tobacco prevention and cessation programs in the 2015-2016 fiscal year. However, this is less than 2 cents of every dollar or close to $26 billion total that states receive from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes each and every year.

The American Lung Association believes that states must use these tobacco settlement dollars, which are intended to compensate states for the healthcare costs from treating sick smokers and former smokers, and revenue from tobacco taxes to fund robust tobacco prevention programs to help tackle the #1 preventable cause of death in this country, tobacco use. Clearly, we have a tall mountain to climb though.

Learn more about your state's efforts on tobacco control at StateOfTobaccoControl.org and then please take action to let decision makers know that enough is enough - we need to end tobacco use once and for all.

Footnotes:

*Four additional states settled separately with the tobacco industry prior to the 1998 agreement.

** National Conference of State Legislators, September 2003.

1 Mother Jones Magazine, November/December 2002.

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Related Topics: Tobacco & Smoking, Impact,

  • Thomas Carr
    Director of National Policy
    American Lung Association
    Thomas Carr has been the Director of National Policy at the American Lung Association since October 2010 and held the title of Manager, National Policy and Policy Analyst with the Lung Association prior to that.

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Comments


Submitted by P-ron at: July 18, 2017
I smoked for 35 years and lung cancer from cigarettes cost me a lung and I'm on oxygen for the rest of my life I was lucky and survived but I believe that big tobacco owes me for that suffering and my families suffering
Submitted by billed at: July 10, 2017
is there anytruth that you can get a portion of the money i smoked for 40 years i quit 2 years ago
Submitted by Duane at: July 9, 2017
I would like information on how to collect funds from the master settlsettlement
Submitted by Anonymous at: July 8, 2017
Individuals who smoke or have smoked cigarettes should be entitled to funds from the settlement. I need for someone to pay for me to see a hypnotist, to quit smoking cigarettes. How can I go about that?
Submitted by Mztrscott55 at: July 5, 2017
Please send me information on how to claim or receive money from The Master Settlement Agreement
Submitted by Shorty at: June 28, 2017
I would like information on how to be eligible to receive payments from this settlement I understand that there is an initial investment
Submitted by DeborahD at: June 20, 2017
Thank you for the warning to the scam about this "Master Settlement Agreement" - apparently there is a HUGE SHAME-SHAME due to all but 3 states for once again "ripping off" the taxpayers by "misappropriation of these funds". What's new right? I smoked for 45 years and quit 2 years ago in August 2017, it was MY choice both to smoke and to quit. I was tired of paying more in 2 to 3 times the taxes on a pack of cigarettes than the cost of the pack, only to have the government screwing it away and from seeing how much the cigarette companies have/are and will continue to pay to "help" people with medical costs, to have anti smoking information and etc. but they are misappropriate these funds - more than likely INTO THEIR POCKETS because they are NOT helping ANYONE with medical and the anti-smoking things they have done do NOT cost ANY continuing funds so where IS this money GOING????? Then the thief online trying to STEAL money from anyone dumb enough to believe his scam - THINK people "pay him what $250.00(?) and then you get a monthly check forever"???? Seriously?? If it was REAL everyone would have done it already and it would be common knowledge. Then there are STILL people in this comment area wanting to know "how to get their share without paying what this Fitzgerald person a fee" - Good for you that you didn't pay it but now go back and read the first paragraph again - if you STILL have the same question. The answer is "No go pay Fitzgerald and good luck with that!"
Submitted by Cherkabe at: June 16, 2017
I have COPD from smoking, how can I get help?
Submitted by Ddean at: June 12, 2017
How do I go about signing up
Submitted by American Lung Association at: June 12, 2017
Hi there, thank you for your comments. The Master Settlement Agreement involves a 1998 settlement reached between the nation’s four largest tobacco companies and attorneys general from 46 states and territories. Despite recent reports on the internet, there is no provision for payments to individuals. We added a link at the top of this post to an alert from the West Virginia Attorney General in response to the incorrect information currently circulating.
Submitted by Lisac at: June 10, 2017
How do I collect from this master settlement ? I know they ask for money upfront is that true ?
Submitted by jaguto at: June 8, 2017
How do I collect from this master settlement?
Submitted by cj at: June 8, 2017
How do i find out about how to claim some of the settlement money fron the settlement of big tobacco?
Submitted by cj at: June 8, 2017
I grew up in a house where both of my parents smoked and all my uncles and aunts and grand parents smoked as well. I never smoked. Both my parents and my grand parents died from lung cancer. Due to second hand smoke i have heart problems and trouble breathing Astma and copd problems breathing i have horrible allergies also. Have to use inhallers. I have other problems as well.
Submitted by Anonymous at: June 6, 2017
I have seen articles that state that I can recieve money from the Tobacco Master Settlement. I would like to know what steps I can take in order to participate in this action. Thank you
Submitted by baddeal at: June 4, 2017
People who have been damaged do not benefit...My humble opinion...Not at all straight forward...
Submitted by Murawski at: June 2, 2017
Heard you can collect from the states and pick a plan and youll get paid. Is this true? I know they ask that you put upront $$
Submitted by Gailie at: June 1, 2017
I've seen articles stating that people can apply to any state and pick a "deal" and receive money nrhly payments from the Tobacco Master Settlements. Is this true or is this a scam? I believe you have to pay something up front first
Submitted by Fredking at: May 28, 2017
I been trying to see how can individuals receive stipends from the Master Settlement Agreement. Keith Fitzgerald wrote a book called Big Tobacco Must Pay, but he charge a fee to learn how to get compensation.
Submitted by Hurtallover48 at: February 23, 2016
Well one thing I am 100% certain is that the many people that smoke certainly don't benefit!!!! and forgive me for being so bold but I think that it is appalling that the government has allowed smoking to become normal and wreak havoc from state to state destroying health and lives of countless people all for the sake of money. the Idea that people pay to harm their health is crazy and yet that is exactly what has been happening from generation to generation and not one politician has the courage to stand up in the name of health and righteousness and say enough is enough, but instead they allow the greed driven so called business to continue which of course means that the innocent impressionable children of today may grow up to be future tobacco addicts filling the coffers of the cigarette business and government Treasury with billions of dollars while their precious lungs are needlessly polluted and filled with poisonous tobacco. shame on the government. and I don't say that with malicious intent, I say it because it is the right thing to say when any government misuses its authority to benefit capitalism to the disadvantage of the common people. I say its more than time for the people to stand up open their eyes and see what is happening and how they are allowing themselves to be exploited by money loving business persons and politicians.
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