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Master Settlement Agreement

In 1998, the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) between the major tobacco companies, 46 US states, the District of Columbia and five US territories helped change the face of tobacco control. The largest civil litigation settlement in US history, one of the MSA’s central purposes was to reduce smoking – and particularly youth smoking – in the United States.

As outlined in the MSA, each of the signing states and territories gave up any future legal claims they might have based on the companies’ actions at issue in these cases.  This did not include individual claims their citizens may have. In exchange, the tobacco companies agreed to pay the states and territories billions of dollars in yearly installments to compensate them for taxpayer money that had been spent in connection with tobacco-related diseases.

Settling Lawsuits:

  • The MSA resolved litigation brought by 46 states, the District of Columbia and five US territories in the mid-1990s against major US cigarette manufacturers, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard-plus the tobacco industry's trade associations.
  • It settled the state lawsuits that sought billions of dollars in costs associated with treating smoking-related illnesses.
  • The Attorneys General of the 46 states, the District of Columbia and five US territories signed the MSA with the four largest US tobacco companies in 1998. (The remaining states had settled separately with the tobacco industry on their own.)

Creating New Restrictions:

  • New limits were created for the advertising, marketing and promotion of cigarettes.
  • Tobacco advertising that targets people younger than 18 was prohibited.
  • Cartoons in cigarette advertising were eliminated.
  • Outdoor, billboard and public transit advertising of cigarettes was eliminated.
  • Cigarette brand names can no longer be used on merchandise.
  • Many millions of tobacco company internal documents were made available to the public.

Since the MSA was signed in November 1998, about 40 other tobacco companies have signed onto the agreement and are also bound by its terms.