Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) USA

From TobaccoUnmasked


In 1994, Attorneys General of four States of United States of America (USA) - Mississippi, Minnesota, Florida, and Texas - initiated law suits against the tobacco industry seeking reimbursement for the health care costs due to cigarette smoking. The rest of the states subsequently joined the litigation process, leading to initiation of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). MSA is an out-of-courts agreement that aimed to settle court cases against the tobacco companies. In November 1998, four largest cigarette manufacturers in USA (Philip Morris Inc., R. J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard) and Attorneys General of 46 states initially entered into the MSA. Since then, around 40 other cigarette manufacturers have signed the MSA and became bound by its terms.[1] [2]

Major Outcomes of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA)

MSA led to three major results as described below:

  • States gaining a monetary compensation for smoking related health care costs induced by the tobacco companies (Image 1)
  • Enforcement of restrictions on advertising, marketing and promotion of tobacco products
  • Public gaining access to internal documents of tobacco companies (Image 2)

Monetary Compensation for Smoking Related Health Costs

Image 1: Texas Attorney General with a symbolic cheque reflecting the compensation received in January 1998[3]

As a condition of the MSA tobacco companies agreed to pay approximately USD 206 billion (based on a calculation made by an independent auditor) as an annual payment to the states to compensate the health care costs borne by the public tax.[1][4][5][6][7] As of 2018, MSA is reported as the largest financial settlement in USA legal history.[1][7]

Restrictions on Advertising, Marketing and Promotions

Some of the provisions of MSA related to advertising, marketing and promotion of tobacco products are listed below.[6]

  • Prohibit direct or indirect advertising, marketing or promotion targeting youth
  • Ban use of cartoons in advertising, marketing, promoting packaging or labelling
  • Limitation of brand name sponsorships
  • Prohibition of sponsorship in concerts, athletic events, events in which the majority of participants would be youth
  • Restrictions of use of brand names in public events
  • No arena or stadium should be named by a tobacco brand name
  • Prohibition of sports leagues and teams by tobacco brand names
  • Elimination of outdoor transit advertisements such as billboards, signs and placards
  • Prohibitions on payments related to tobacco products to media - Cigarette manufacturers should not make “any payment or other consideration to any other person or entity to use, display, make reference to or use as a prop any Tobacco Product, Tobacco Product package, advertisement for a Tobacco Product, or any other item bearing a Brand Name in any motion picture, television show, theatrical production or other live performance, live or recorded performance of music, commercial film or video, or video game ("media")”
  • Prohibition of brand stretching
  • Ban youth access to free samples of tobacco products
  • Ban gifts to youths based on purchases
  • Limitation of third party use of brand names
  • Ban on using non-tobacco brand names
  • Recommending a minimum pack-size of 20 cigarettes
  • Develop a corporate culture to limit access and use of tobacco products for youth
  • Limit tobacco industry lobbying
  • Dissolvement of tobacco industry funded research institutes
  • The Tobacco Institute,
  • Council for Tobacco Research-U.S.A.
  • Center for Indoor Air Research
  • Regulation and oversight of new tobacco related trade organizations
  • Prohibition on research suppression
  • Prohibition on material misrepresentations

Access to Tobacco Industry Internal Documents

Image 2: An example for an internal document of British American Tobacco archived as an online material in Legacy Tobacco Documents Library.[8]

In 1998, as a part of MSA, the tobacco companies were ordered to publish the internal documents produced as a part of the litigation process via two methods:[9][10][11][12]

  • Publishing in publicly searchable websites
  • Depositing in the two tobacco internal document depositories in Minnesota, USA and Guildford UK

This led to initiation of research on tobacco industry documents, improving the knowledge on tobacco industry strategies and interference in public health.[10] Please refer to our page on Tobacco Industry Internal Documents for more details.

Tobacco Unmasked Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, The Master Settlement Agreement: An Overview, undated, accessed June 2018
  2. State of New Mexico- Office of the Attorney General, Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, undated, accessed June 2018
  3. Huston Chronicle.20 years later, debate continues over the Texas tobacco verdict, 22 April 2016, Accessed September 2018
  4. National Association of Attorneys General, The ABC’s of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, undated, accessed June 2018
  5. Public Health Law Center, Master Settlement Agreement, undated, accessed June 2018
  6. 6.0 6.1 State of California- Department of Justice, Master Settlement Agreement, undated, accessed June 2018
  7. 7.0 7.1 Washington State-Office of the Attorney General, Master Settlement Agreement, undated, accessed June 2018
  8. A. A. Buchanan. British American Tobacco Company Limited. Sri Lanka, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, British American Tobacco Records, Bates No: 700412572-700412575, 13 February 1996, accessed September 2018
  9. Campaign for Tobacco - Free Kids, ACCESSING TOBACCO INDUSTRY INTERNAL DOCUMENTS ON-LINE, undated, accessed June 2018
  10. 10.0 10.1 Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, HISTORY, undated, accessed June 2018
  11. World Health Organization, The tobacco industry documents what they are, what they tell us, and how to search them a practical manual, undated, accessed June 2018
  12. R Hurt,J Ebbert, M Muggli, N Lokhart, C Robertson Open Doorway to Truth: Legacy of the Minnesota Tobacco Trial, Mayo Clinic, May 2009, accessed June 2018