Gunsmoke brand cigarettes part of smokescreen. That should be the headline of this news story.
Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist announced yesterday that his office has moved to have one of the nation’s largest tobacco manufacturers held in contempt for violating Florida’s historic multi-billion-dollar 1997 tobacco settlement. Crist said Brown & Williamson Holding Inc. failed to report the shipment and sale of billions of cigarettes. As a result, approximately $17 million owed to Florida under the landmark agreement has not been paid.
The original settlement agreement called for the company, formerly known as Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., and other manufacturers to pay a lump sum of $550 million to Florida and then make annual payments to the state based on the volume of sales of tobacco products.
Crist’s office maintains that B&W has failed to report the shipment and sale of more than seven billion cigarettes manufactured for Star Tobacco & Pharmaceuticals Inc. The failure to report these sales deprived Florida of approximately $17 million in settlement payments and interest. B&W has also refused to provide the state with all requested information about the sales of these cigarettes, according to Crist’s court filing.
According to Crist’s motion, the unreported cigarettes were manufactured by B&W and sold in the United States by Star under such brand names as “Gunsmoke” and “Vegas.” In 2001, B&W attorneys acknowledged that profits from the sale of Star cigarettes were to be counted under the settlement agreement, but three years later the company asserted that the acknowledgment had been “mistaken.”