General Tobacco - will remove cigarette brands from certain states..

January 30, 2010 - January 25, 2010 - General Tobacco products is on its way to being barred from selling its cigarette products in 18 states over its failure to make payments under the multistate Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), which was created in 1998.

General Tobacco (GT) said Wednesday, January 27th it will comply with recent notices regarding the removal of its cigarette brands from certain state directories of approved brands for sale.

Some states have pursued additional payments from Mayodan-based General Tobacco related to the Master Settlement Agreement, a deal reached in 1998 when tobacco companies agreed to pay states for the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses. In a statement Wednesday, General Tobacco said it continues to dispute the validity of the agreement and maintains its claims that it is owed more than $95 million in overpayment to states.

“Consumers should not have to lose the choice of GT’s brands over what the company considers to be a bona fide dispute over the interpretation of the MSA and its validity under federal and state law,” said Ronald Denman, GT’s executive vice president and general counsel.

“Big Tobacco got away with billions in sales with no payments to the states before the MSA and is now squeezing its competitors out of business under the auspices of the MSA so that it can make many more billions.”

The de-listing does not pertain to the filtered cigars or pipe tobacco products sold by GT.

One of the states owed is Arizona. In May 2009 the Mayodan,NC based GT opened GT West, a distribution center for its complete line of products in Phoenix.

Reference: General Tobacco pulls brands amid dispute, The Business Journal of the Greater Triad Area, 1/27/2010.

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