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Pa. vows to protect its tobacco payment

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Pennsylvania will continue to fight the tobacco industry's lawsuit to reduce payments to the Master Settlement Agreement, the 1998 deal that requires tobacco companies to pay billions of dollars to offset public health costs from tobacco-related diseases.

The agreement called for tobacco companies to continue paying states for as long as they sell cigarettes. Payments to Pennsylvania typically yield more than $300 million a year.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane on Tuesday said Pennsylvania will continue to litigate those claims rather than accept reduced payments from the tobacco companies, who dispute charges dating to 2003.

“I could not agree to a settlement that contained unclear terms and financial projections,” Kane said.

Pennsylvania was among 31 states that rejected the settlement offer.

The major tobacco companies contend they were paying too much and states were not carrying out their responsibilities to seek money from smaller companies that weren't a party to the settlement.

The tobacco companies pegged Pennsylvania's share of the disputed payments at about $50 million a year.

State Rep. John Mahr, R-Upper St. Clair, a member of the Tobacco Settlement Investment Board, said Kane has yet to brief the panel.

“Obviously, tobacco settlement proceeds have had an important role in advancing health care, life sciences and non-smoking programs,” he said.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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