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In 1998, landmark litigation by California and dozens of other states against the major U.S. tobacco companies, arising from decades of deceitful advertising and marketing of tobacco to adults and children, produced far-reaching changes in the way cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products are advertised and promoted in California and across the nation. In the historic Master Settlement Agreement, or "MSA", the four largest tobacco manufacturers agreed to restrictions on their marketing practices and to pay billions of dollars annually to the states.
Gone now are cartoon characters in cigarette ads, like the infamous Joe Camel, that appealed to youngsters, along with cigarette ads on billboards along our highways and on T-shirts, caps and gear bags. These and many other marketing restrictions now apply to almost all U.S. tobacco manufacturers, as over 40 other tobacco companies have joined the MSA since 1998. Preventing youth initiation is crucial because health experts confirm that most people can avoid becoming addicted to the nicotine in tobacco products if they stay tobacco-free during adolescence and young adulthood.
Tobacco companies have paid more than $106 billion to California and 45 other states, with California's $13.4 billion share being divided evenly between the state and the state's counties and four largest cities.
The Tobacco Litigation and Enforcement Section holds the tobacco industry accountable for strict compliance with the MSA's marketing restrictions and payment obligations. In addition, the Tobacco Section enforces a number of state laws and programs that regulate the promotion and sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products in the state, including the state's Tobacco Directory and Reserve Fund Statute. The Tobacco Section also receives funds from Proposition 56, the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tax Act of 2016, to be used for enforcement purposes, and participates in the program through which DOJ distributes funds to local law enforcement agencies to enforce state and local tobacco laws.