Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

In 1998, the Attorney General's Office reached a settlement (the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement or “MSA”) with the major U.S. tobacco manufacturers that imposes major restrictions on the industry's advertising and marketing machine, curtails its ability to fight anti-tobacco legislation in our political arena, and provides states quick mechanisms to enforce the agreement.

In addition, it provides states with annual payments for the indefinite future (approximately $206 billion through the year 2025 - including $4.5 billion for Washington State) - to help reimburse the states for Medicaid costs  caused by tobacco. The tobacco settlement is the largest financial recovery in legal history.

The MSA prohibits tobacco companies from doing certain things, and affirmatively requires them to do certain other things.  Among the important changes that the MSA made are the following:

  • New limits were created for the advertising, marketing and promotion of cigarettes.
  • It prohibited tobacco advertising that targets people younger than 18.
  • Cartoons in cigarette advertising were eliminated.
  • Outdoor, billboard and public transit advertising of cigarettes were eliminated.
  • Cigarette brand names could no longer be used on merchandise.
  • Many tobacco company internal documents were made available to the public.

The MSA also called for the creation of a nonprofit organization, the Legacy Foundation, funded by the settling states. This foundation was charged with educating the nation about the social costs, addictive nature and negative health effects associated with tobacco consumption.

In 2001, the Legacy Foundation launched the “truth” campaign. Peer-reviewed research has shown that the Truth campaign has improved public health by helping to reduce youth smoking initiation.

Since the MSA was signed in November 1998, about 50 other tobacco companies have signed onto the agreement and are also bound by its terms.