JACKSON, Miss.–Two tobacco companies have agreed to pay Mississippi $15 million to settle a lawsuit. The suit, file by Atty. Gen. Jim Hood’s office said R. J. Reynolds and Brown and Williamson both failed to pay the state for cigarettes they sold in Mississippi.
Under an agreement in 1997, tobacco companies must pay for every single cigarette they sell in the state, and Hood said both companies were able to dodge that payment. B&W was able to dodge by manufacturing cigarettes under the name Star Tobacco.
“During the investigation of Brown and Williamson’s conduct, we also discovered other instances where RJR/B&W tobacco companies shortchanged the State of Mississippi,” said Hood in a news release.
The $15 million represents principal and interest on what R. J. Reynolds and Brown and Williamson’s companies should have paid years ago. The lawsuit was brought at no cost to the State, as the tobacco companies agreed in 1997 to the pay the State attorneys’ fees anytime it becomes necessary to go to court to enforce the settlement. Attorney Lee Young of Pascagoula led a team of private counsel with many years of experience taking on big tobacco, said Hood.
“The 1997 settlement with the tobacco companies is perpetual, and contributes on average over $100 million per year to the State’s health care budget,” said Hood. “I will continue to closely monitor the tobacco companies and hold them accountable for their actions.”