In 1995, the Attorney General’s Office brought a lawsuit against major cigarette manufacturers to stop deceptive cigarette marketing practices; to require cigarette companies to disclose research concerning smoking, health, and nicotine addiction; to fund public education and smoking cessation programs; and to recover the significant costs incurred by Massachusetts due to smoking-related diseases.
In November 1998, the attorneys general of 51 U.S. states and territories entered into a landmark settlement as a result of this litigation. Among many other things, and subject to certain exceptions, the Master Settlement Agreement:
- Requires the participating manufacturers to make annual payments to the settling states in perpetuity. "Base payments" - subject to various adjustments, reductions, and offsets - total more than $204 billion through 2025, with more than $8 billion for Massachusetts.
- Requires the participating manufacturers to fund a $250 million charitable foundation, and a $1.45 billion National Public Education Fund, for tobacco control activities.
- Prohibits the participating manufacturers from engaging in advertising, marketing, and promotional activities that target minors.
- Bans the use of cartoon characters, such as "Joe Camel," in the advertising and packaging of cigarettes.
- Bans outdoor advertising (as defined) including advertising on billboards and transit advertising, and in stadiums, video game arcades, and shopping malls.
- Limits manufacturers to only one brand-name sponsorship of an event per year, and prohibits brand name sponsorship of major team sports (baseball, basketball, football, hockey, and soccer), concerts, events with a significant youth audience, and events where any of the paid participants or contestants are underage.
- Prohibits payments for "product placements" in films and other media.
- Bans the distribution and sale of apparel and merchandise with brand-name logos (caps, T-shirts, etc.).
- Prohibits the distribution of free samples except where the operator of a facility or enclosed area ensures that no underage person is present.
- Bans gifts to minors based on proofs of purchase.
- Requires that tobacco industry documents be made available to the public.
- Prohibits material misrepresentations of fact regarding the health consequences of smoking.
The Attorney General’s Office and the attorneys general of other states are taking steps to enforce the terms of the Master Settlement Agreement and to encourage other tobacco companies to join in the settlement.
A complete list of the manufacturers that have joined the Master Settlement Agreement can be found at the National Association of Attorneys General website.