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Arkansas Court Denies General Tobacco Product De-listing

MAYODAN, N.C. -- An Arkansas court denied a move by the Arkansas Attorney General and more than a dozen other state attorneys general that would de-list General Tobacco's cigarette brands from the directory of approved brands to sell in that state, and ruled that Vibo Corp., dba General Tobacco's (GT) cigarette brands, may continue to be sold lawfully in Arkansas, the tobacco company stated.

GT said that the order, issued by the Circuit Court of Pulaski County on Jan. 26, 2010, should prevent Arkansas and any other state that is part of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) from de-listing GT's brands.

CSNews Online reported last week that General Tobacco products can no longer be sold in Washington or 17 other states as of Feb. 19, according to The Washington Attorney General's Office, which claimed the company had not made the required payments under the MSA.

General Tobacco said in a statement last week it continues to dispute those states' allegations that it is in default on its MSA obligations. It noted that any amount it currently owes to the states is far less than what the states argue, and that the company is entitled to apply more than $95 million owed to the company in credits under the MSA toward any payment due.

Arkansas is the only state that brought a court action to determine whether the delisting of GT's cigarette brands is proper, the company stated. Because the court ruled that the de-listing of the brands may not proceed, GT asked all of the states in the MSA to comply with the order.

However, the company requested that its customers continue to respect the de-listing date of Feb. 19, that were previously announced, until the 18 states involved in the de-listing confirm whether or not they will follow the Arkansas court order.

GT's executive vice president, J. Ronald Denman, said in a statement he plans on exploring remedies with other states that de-listed GT, which led to "millions of dollars in losses, as well as improperly demanding GT's customers pay them directly rather than GT."

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