1998 – 52 state and territory attorneys general sign the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
In 1998, 52 state and territory attorneys general signed the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement with the 4 largest tobacco companies in America to settle dozens of state lawsuits filed to recover billions in health care costs linked to treating smoking-related diseases. Eventually, over 45 tobacco companies settled with the Settling States under the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. Even though Mississippi, Florida, Minnesota, and Texas are not signatories, they have their own tobacco settlements, which occurred before the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.
The purpose of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement is to reduce smoking in the country, particularly among youth, which is achieved through raising the cost of cigarettes by imposing payment obligations on the tobacco companies party to the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement and restricting tobacco advertising and marketing, including:
- prohibiting tobacco companies from targeting youth in the advertising, promotion, or marketing of cigarettes
- banning the use of cartoons in advertising, promotions, or labeling of tobacco products
- prohibiting tobacco companies from distributing merchandise bearing the brand name of cigarettes
- banning payments to promote tobacco products in the media, such as movies, TV shows, music, and video games
- prohibiting tobacco brand name sponsorship of events with a large youth audience
- eliminating tobacco company practices that conceal tobacco's health risks
- providing money for the Settling States that some states choose to use to fund smoking prevention programs
- establishing and funding the Truth Initiative, the organization "dedicated to achieving a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco"
The 1980s – the second wave of tobacco litigation emerges, and addiction is introduced as a factor
In the 1980s, there was a new wave of lawsuits. In the most famous case of that time, Cipollone v. Liggett, the plaintiff, and her family alleged that tobacco companies knew but did not warn consumers that smoking caused lung cancer and that cigarettes were addictive. Even though Rose Cipollone's husband was awarded $400,000, the decision was reversed. Other plaintiffs also sued, alleging that cigarette manufacturers knew the products were addictive and caused cancer.
1969 – the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969 enters law
Congress passed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act in 1969. This banned cigarette advertising from radio and television. The Surgeon General published the most comprehensive volume on smoking ever issued in the United States in 1979, the 15th anniversary of the first report. Furthermore, the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act entailed the following:
- package warning label – "Warning: The Surgeon General Has Determined that Cigarette Smoking Is Dangerous to Your Health" temporarily preempted the Federal Trade Commission requirement of health labels on advertisements
- prevented states or localities from regulating or prohibiting cigarette advertising or promotion for health-related reasons
1965 – Congress passes the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act
One year after the report's initial release, Congress passed the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965, requiring the first warning labels on cigarette packages. More specifically, it made it mandatory for tobacco companies to display the warning "Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health" on the label of each of their products. No other warning was allowed. Furthermore, the law:
- required no labels on cigarette advertisements – in fact, implemented a 3-year prohibition of any such labels
- required the Federal Trade Commission to report to Congress every year on the effectiveness of cigarette labeling, current cigarette advertising, and promotion practices, as well as to make recommendations for legislation
- required Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to report annually to Congress on the health consequences of smoking
1964 – the U.S. Surgeon General's first Smoking and Health report is made public
In January 1964, Dr. Luther Terry, Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service, made public the first report of the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health. On the basis of over 7,000 articles concerning smoking and disease already available at the time in the medical literature, the Advisory Committee concluded that cigarette smoking:
- causes lung cancer and laryngeal cancer in men
- is a probable cause of lung cancer in women
- is the most important cause of chronic bronchitis
The report also linked tobacco use with heart disease. For a few days, the report furnished newspaper headlines across the country and lead stories on television newscasts. Subsequently, it was ranked among the top news stories of 1964.
The 1950s – the first reports linking smoking to cancer emerge, and people begin suing
In these early lawsuits, plaintiffs, who were usually smokers with lung cancer, typically used several legal theories in their lawsuits, such as:
- negligent manufacturing – the tobacco companies failed to act with reasonable care in manufacturing and marketing cigarettes
- product liability – tobacco companies manufactured and marketed a product that was unfit to use
- negligent advertising – tobacco companies failed to warn consumers of the risks of smoking
- violation of state consumer protection laws, most of which prohibit deceptive business practices
Tobacco companies responded immediately, fighting each lawsuit and outright refusing to settle out of court. They relied on multiple defense strategies, arguing that:
- tobacco was not harmful to consumers
- smokers' cancer was caused by other factors
- smokers assumed the risk of cancer when they decided to use tobacco
1901 – a whopping 3.5 billion cigarettes are sold in America, which was a record
In 1901, roughly 3.5 billion cigarettes were sold in America, and increasingly more tobacco companies were established, creating a whole industry that began gaining a lot of power. Tobacco companies such as Altria Group and Imperial Brands were becoming more and more popular, selling more and more tobacco products, and earning whacking amounts of money.
1864 – federal tax is imposed on cigarettes
Although cigarettes were introduced in the United States at the beginning of the 19th century, it was not until 1984 that federal tax was imposed on cigarettes and other tobacco products. Before the 19th century, tobacco would be used mostly in pipes and cigars, by chewing, and in snuff.
1760 – Lorillard Company, the first company that made cigars and snuff, is founded in the U.S.
Dating to 1760, when a French immigrant, Pierre Lorillard, opened a "manufactory" in New York City, Lorillard Company is now the oldest tobacco company in the United States. It was created 200 years ago, yet it still has a $6.46 billion revenue annually or even more.