In 1998, 46 state attorneys banded together on behalf of their respective states to pursue damages for the expenses each state incurred treating smoking-related illnesses via their Medicaid programs. It’s important to note that it wasn’t until the late 1980s and early 1990s that the United States government started to inch toward admitting smoking tobacco is entirely more harmful than it was “a weight-loss or relaxation regimen” as originally purported by many doctors in the decades earlier.
Speculations about the health risk began with doctors in the1920s reporting links between smoking and buccal cancer and that smoking was starting to decrease life expectancy. Still, this did not curb the appetite of smokers, nor did it make the major tobacco manufacturers (Philip Morris Inc, R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, and Lorillard) slow production. In 1998, David Satcher, the U.S. surgeon general stated, “Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of disease, cancer, stroke, and respiratory disease…”
By then, the tobacco manufacturers were knee-deep in a far-from-ordinary lawsuit; this case is not typically credited as a class action suit due to the fact that the attorneys were representing states, not individual people. Under the Master Settlement Agreement, the tobacco companies faced restrictions regarding the way they can market the product and they were also required to pay the states a whopping $206 billion.
Read More: Top Five Largest Corporation Settlements in United States History