Florida sues tobacco giant in PB Co. for violating landmark deal

Florida’s attorney general Wednesday took action in a lawsuit in Palm Beach County Circuit Court against tobacco interests accused of violating a landmark 1997 agreement that provides the state hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

The state is owed $45 million and expects to suffer annual losses of $30 million unless the court enforces the agreement in the wake of recent industry sales and mergers, the suit said.

winston“The sale of major, pre-existing tobacco brands to another company for billions of dollars does not cause the payment obligations to vanish like a puff of smoke,” Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement. “I look forward to the state obtaining prompt relief.”

The suit targets ITG Brands LLC of Greensboro, N.C. Attempts to reach the company for comment were not immediately successful.

The lawsuit comes two decades after a history-making deal with RJR and other major tobacco companies to compensate the state for public health expenses. Such payments amounted to about $378 million in 2014, the suit said.

State officials noted RJR recently sold three of its most well-known cigarette brands, Winston, Kool and Salem, along with Lorillard Tobacco Co. brand Maverick, to ITG for $7 billion.



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