HELENA — On Monday Nov. 16, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox is expected to announce a settlement regarding a dispute with some of the largest tobacco companies over $43 million in funds owed to Montana from a previously reached settlement.
In April, the Montana Department of Justice State filed litigation against tobacco companies over the $43 million that is owed to Montana under a 1998 settlement. The lawsuit alleges the companies withheld payments dating back to 2005.
Defendants include: Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, American Tobacco Corp, Brown and Williamson Tobacco, Lorillard Tobacco Company, United States Tobacco Company, British American Tobacco Company, RJR Nabisco and Hill and Knowlton.
Over two decades ago, Montana joined every other state and territory in the country to sue the largest tobacco companies for decades of deception about the health hazards of smoking.
Montana entered into their own settlement with the companies in 1998. In exchange for dropping the lawsuit, the companies promised annual payments to the state and to restrict marketing practices.
In 2003, those companies began to dispute and withhold payments to states, claiming in court every dispute will need to be settled before making that year’s payment.
The Attorney General’s Office prevailed in a lawsuit in 2018 for the 2004 missed payment of $3.3 million.
The effects of tobacco have been costly to Montanans.
According to the CDC, $440 million is spent on tobacco related healthcare costs in Montana, and around 1,600 Montanans die each year from smoking related illness. The payments from the tobacco companies fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid, smoking prevention, cessation programs, suicide programs and more.