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After US Congress failed to enact legislation in the summer of 1998 that would have ratified the June 20, 1997 deal to settle lawsuits filed by state attorneys general (AGs) against tobacco companies, in November, 1998 the AGs agreed to a different Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with tobacco companies that did not require Congressional approval (see http://www.naag.org/glance.htm ). Just as had occurred with the first settlement, the AGs hailed the MSA as a major advancement for public health. However, the public health community once again criticised the new settlement's unwarranted protection for the tobacco companies. Although some health advocates initiated court challenges to block the MSA, the majority of the public health community have been urging state legislatures to spend a portion of the settlement funds for tobacco control programmes. Both of these public health strategies seem to be failing, as most state courts have already approved the MSA, and only a few state legislatures have appropriated a significant amount of MSA funds for tobacco control programmes. With unprecedented future legal protection granted by the state AGs in exchange for money, it appears that the tobacco industry has emerged from the state lawsuits even more powerful.
While monitoring the settlement negotiations between the state AGs and the tobacco industry last summer and fall, and after analysing the MSA last November, many public health and civil justice advocates concluded that the MSA provides far greater benefits for tobacco manufacturers than for public health.
After failing to convince the AGs to oppose the deal, health advocates, hospitals, counties, and others went to court in many states to challenge the MSA. Of these, court challenges remain in nine states, with the only public health based challenge existing in Pennsylvania. Additionally, several federal lawsuits now challenge the MSA, and experts anticipate far more litigation in …
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