Florida consumers send more than $3.7 billion annually to tobacco giants in Richmond, Va., and Winston-Salem, N.C., and a few other states. These major tobacco companies control more than 80 percent of the market in Florida and the nation.
Four of the biggest companies also pay state court settlement payments they agreed to in 1997 to avoid a jury trial for a list of charges, including conspiring and misleading the public and the government about smoking and lung cancer, hiding and discrediting research, denying addictive properties of nicotine and targeting children and youth with their ads.
The payments are not a tax and are not charged per pack, but an agreed-to court settlement amount with adjustments for national market share, etc.
The giant companies also won a release from future state and federal lawsuits “forever,” regardless of their past, present and future actions. The new tax law would provide no protections to those being taxed.
So the North Carolina and Virginia manufacturers would be protected from state lawsuits, but the Florida manufacturer would not. Is that a level playing field?
Despite these facts, Big Tobacco wants Florida legislators to pass a new tax overturning the courts and potentially eliminating good Florida jobs.
Dosal also was named in the landmark suit, but was dismissed because the company did not participate in the now-infamous secret meetings at the Plaza Hotel in New York City in December 1953, nor in the acts that followed. There, Big Tobacco conspired to fight the “lung cancer epidemic” with a campaign of distortions and denials all exposed later by Gov. Lawton Chiles and secret memos obtained from one of the companies.
Amazingly, the only Florida company that would pay this new tax is Dosal Corp. of Opa-Locka.
In 2009, the Florida Legislature increased the tax on every carton of cigarettes by $10, and Congress added another $6, so a new $16-per-carton tax was paid on all brands, including Dosal Tobacco, in 2010.
Taxing Big Tobacco’s in-state competition to help them gain even more market share only rewards decades of despicable and unethical corporate behavior, makes a mockery of justice and punishes those who played by the rules. Our legislators have said no to Big Tobacco’s multimillion-dollar onslaught for eight years, and they should be commended.
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