The Richmond Times reports the latest on the tobacco settlement agreement:
Financially pressed states might have to return $1.1 billion to Big Tobacco this year, if a review finds the states aren’t trying hard enough to keep a 12-year-old legal settlement from hurting the companies too much.
This summer, states and the nation’s Big Three tobacco firms will begin arbitrating a dispute over 2003 payments made under the settlement, the companies have disclosed in financial filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Sums ranging from $705 million to $1.1 billion for each of the subsequent years also are headed for arbitration. And that’s on top of the fact that the money actually paid to the states has run as much as $2.2 billion a year less than the sums touted when the settlement was signed, a Richmond Times-Dispatch review found.
At the heart of the arbitration dispute is the roughly 54 cents a pack the settlement currently costs Big Tobacco. The money is intended to repay states for the costs of caring for sick and dying smokers over the years — but only a few states use the money for that, or for the tobacco cessation and prevention programs public-health advocates hoped the settlement would fund.