Back in 1998, in the Master Settlement Agreement, the big tobacco companies agreed to pay 46 states billions of dollars in perpetuity, supposedly to defray states’ health care costs. In exchange, the states passed laws protecting big tobacco companies against price competition from their smaller rivals, enabling them to pass on the costs of the settlement to consumers.
The billions paid out under the Master Settlement inspired foreign countries to get into the act, suing the tobacco companies in hopes of receiving billions of dollars of their own.
Nigerian states are now suing the tobacco companies for roughly $30 billion.
Leading the pack is the northern Nigerian state of Kano, which claims that the tobacco companies marketed to children.
Kano State’s purported concern for children is hard to square with its actions in reintroducing the deadly childhood disease of polio, which has killed or crippled millions of children.
In 2005, polio was virtually extinct, thanks to a worldwide vaccination campaign. But Kano revived the disease by repeatedly blocking child immunizations between 2002 and 2005, resulting in the disease spreading from Nigeria throughout Africa and into the Middle East. Paranoid Kano state officials thought that the polio vaccine was a plot to undermine Muslim fertility.
Kano’s purported concern for children is also hard to square with the fact that state officials in Kano turned a blind eye when Muslim mobs burnt Christians alive — including Christian children — in past rounds of ethnic and religious cleansing.
The Canadian province of British Columbia also is suing American tobacco companies, seeking to force them to pay the health care costs of smokers. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the British Columbia law under which the suit was brought, holding that there is no right to a fair civil trial under the Canadian constitution.
I criticized the Canadian supreme court’s decision here.
The British Columbia courts have allowed the Province to sue even over the labeling of “light” cigarettes, which was in accord with the regulations of the Canadian government.
CEI is suing to challenge the 1998 tobacco settlement. You can find a copy of our court briefs and complaint here.