Big Tobacco Market Share Is Big Concern for States

In defending its settlement with Big Tobacco, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) argues that “the states are not 'partners with the tobacco industry.' ” (Letters to the Editor, Aug. 31). But that $200 billion settlement rests on states' protecting Big Tobacco's market share. To get the money, NAAG has fought competition from manufacturers that are not parties to the tobacco settlement (NPMs). As NAAG's then-chairman, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, put it in a Sept. 12, 2003, memo, “All states have an interest in reducing NPM sales in every state.” Does that sound like a public official talking, or a business partner?<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />


NAAG claims that smaller tobacco companies are not coerced into joining the settlement because they have to make larger payments under it than under state NPM statutes. But some tobacco companies pay nothing at all under the settlement. The settlement gives smaller companies that join it a choice: either keep their market share from growing and pay nothing, or increase their market share and pay dearly. That's a huge incentive to join the settlement and stop competing with Big Tobacco.