Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled Friday that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company will have to pay the state a one-time $92 million payment, as well as an estimated $30 million annually — a win for Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.
R.J. Reynolds was part of the 1997 settlement in which cigarette makers agreed to pay the state hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate for past and future public health expenses caused by smoking. In exchange, the companies received liability protections.
A couple years ago, R. J. Reynolds sold four of its most iconic cigarette brands — Salem, Winston, Kool and Maverick — for $7 billion to ITG Brands, a company that was not part of the settlement agreement. Because of this, R.J. Reynolds contended it was no longer responsible for making payments linked to the four brands, and stopped payments to the state without having been released from payment obligations.
These four brands accounted for approximately 17 billion cigarettes sold in 2016, about 8% of the domestic tobacco market.
The Friday ruling ends the legal battle between the R.J. Reynolds and the state, denying the tobacco company’s requests for rehearing and requiring it to make payments on the four cigarette brands.
“This monumental decision comes at an extremely vital time for our state as the coronavirus has taken a toll on Florida’s revenues,” Moody said in a news release. :I am thrilled with the Fourth DCA’s decision and glad our talented team of attorneys were able to ensure monies due to the state of Florida will be paid in full and the defendants cannot shirk their responsibilities.”
This ruling is also another victory in Moody’s battle against smoking companies. In 2019, Moody announced a massive investigation into more than 20 companies that produce and sell vaping products in Florida. Moody has been vocal on her plans to tackle vaping and issues of addition.