JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline)-Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon on Wednesday criticized his state's handling of the multi-state tobacco settlement that provides states millions of dollars annually.
The Master Settlement Agreement, reached in 1998 between tobacco companies and 46 states and six U.S. territories, was intended to settle lawsuits that states had filed to recover government costs associated with people who became ill from smoking or tobacco-related illnesses.
On Tuesday, Missouri received a $146 million payment as a part of the agreement. In all, the Show Me State has received $1.4 billion from the Master Settlement Agreement over the last decade, according to the attorney general's office.
Nixon, a Democrat, said in a statement that his state has little to show for the money that has flowed from tobacco companies into state coffers.
Money from the Master Settlement Agreement, he said, has not resulted in "substantial resources into programs to keep Missourians, especially young people, from taking up the smoking habit or to help them kick the habit once they're hooked."
The state recently moved up one slot to 50th in its commitment to using its tobacco settlement funds for smoking-related programs, according to rankings compiled by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
"After many years of being dead last, there's little to brag about that Missouri has moved from 51st to 50th in using its tobacco money
on prevention programs," Nixon said.
The settlement agreement was reached originally by the nation's four largest tobacco companies: Philip Morris USA, R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., and Lorillard Tobacco Company. More than 40 other tobacco companies later joined the agreement.
A spokesman for Altria Group, Inc., previously named Philip Morris Companies Inc., said Missouri is not alone in using its tobacco settlement money for unrelated programs.
Company spokesman Bill Phelps told LNL that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe that states have not devoted adequate funding to anti-smoking programs.
"We think they should," said Phelps, noting that since 1998 his company has paid $42 billion in settlement payments to the states and U.S. territories.
"We continue to encourage the states to fund initiatives related to smoking and youth smoking prevention," he said.
From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.