Vice Squad
Saturday, March 27, 2004
Shoring Up the Tobacco Settlement

As the loyal Vice Squad reader knows, states have been trying to force small tobacco producers who operate in only a few states to charge more for their cigarettes -- otherwise, the states see a decline in their payments from those tobacco companies that reached the 1998 multi-state settlement. (The most recent Vice Squad entry on this issue is in the second half of this post from March 18.) But lately, state legislatures have not been willing to go along with the scheme, it seems. A bill to tack on a 50 cent per pack tax on the cigarettes of small manufacturers failed to make it out of committee in Florida last week. (Florida is one of the four states that is not part of the multi-state agreement, but forged a similar, separate settlement with Big Tobacco.) And in Kentucky, the state House voted 46-45 against a measure aimed at penalizing the non-participating small tobacco manufacturers. Don't expect this issue to go away, however, as the amount of money involved is substantial.

In other tobacco lawsuit news -- this time an old-fashioned lawsuit brought by the wife of a heavy smoker who died from lung cancer -- the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the trial court verdict in favor of the defendant, R. J. Reynolds. One of the bases for the appeal was that the trial judge did not let into evidence an advertisement by tobacco companies from 1954 that apparently questioned the link between smoking and lung cancer. The presiding justice noted that the deceased smoker was 2 years old when the ad appeared, and so he "could not have read, understood, or relied on this statement in any meaningful way."

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