Master Settlement Agreement
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The Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) is an accord reached in November 1998 between the state Attorneys General of 46 states, five U.S. territories, the District of Columbia and the four largest cigarette manufacturers in America concerning the advertising, marketing and promotion of cigarettes. In addition to requiring the tobacco industry to pay the settling states billions of dollars annually forever, the MSA also imposed restrictions on the sale and marketing of cigarettes by participating cigarette manufacturers.
Among its many provisions, the MSA:
- Forbids participating cigarette manufacturers from directly or indirectly targeting youth;
- Imposes significant prohibitions or restrictions on advertising, marketing and promotional programs or activities; and
- Bans or restricts cartoons, transit advertising, most forms of outdoor advertising, including billboards, product placement in media, branded merchandise, free product samples (except in adult-only facilities), and most sponsorships
Over the years, the states have collected tremendous amounts of commercial tobacco revenue, but are spending little of it on tobacco prevention and cessation programs. According to A State-by-State Look at the 1998 Tobacco Settlement 19 Years Later, states will collect $27.5 billion from the MSA and taxes in Fiscal Year 2018, but will spend less than 3 percent of it on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. No state currently funds tobacco prevention at the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); 29 states and the District of Columbia spend less than 20 percent of the CDC recommendation.
Featured MSA resources are below, or in the right sidebar (desktop/tablet), or end of page (mobile).
A Complex Achievement: The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. A chapter by Joelle Lester and Kerry Cork describing the historical background of the 1998 tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) and assessing its impact. Looking Back to Move Forward: Resolving Health & Environmental Crises (Environmental Law Institute, 2020).
This fact sheet provides answers to several common questions about the largest civil litigation settlement in U.S. history, the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA).
Text of the Master Settlement Agreement. 88 pages.
If you see an advertisement suggesting that anyone can sign up and receive monthly MSA payments, please be aware that no such payments exist. Our attorneys cannot help you sign up for MSA payments because the MSA does not provide payments to individuals. Please read this blog post (link above) for additional information.
External MSA Resources:
- NAAG Center for Tobacco and Public Health. The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Tobacco Center specializes in matters related to the 1998 tobacco Master Settlement Agreement and is dedicated to helping the attorneys general of the signatory states (Settling States) interpret, implement, and enforce this agreement.
- Truth Tobacco Industry Documents. Formerly known as the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, an archive of 14 million documents created by tobacco companies about their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, scientific research and political activities, hosted by the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Library and Center for Knowledge Management.
- A State-by-State Look at the 1998 Tobacco Settlement 19 Years Later (2017). Report and interactive resources created by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, and Truth Initiative.
- Potential Master Settlement Agreement Violations Evidenced in Judge Kessler’s Findings in USA v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., et al (2007). Public Health Advocacy Institute.
- The Center for Tobacco-Free Kids and the Tobacco-Settlement Negotiations, Digby Diehl (2003). Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Anthology.