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General Tobacco to Comply With Product De-listing

MAYODAN, N.C. -- Following announcements from state attorneys general that its cigarette products should be removed from retail shelves due to non-payment of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), Vibo Corp., dba General Tobacco (GT), announced that it will comply with recent notices regarding the removal of its cigarette brands from certain state directories of approved brands for sale.

The company also noted the de-listing does not pertain to its filtered cigars or pipe tobacco, both of which can continue to be sold in all states without interruption.

CSNews Online reported earlier this 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 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.

The tobacco manufacturer also continues to dispute the validity of the MSA under antitrust, constitutional and other federal and state laws.

Since 2004, General Tobacco has made approximately $600 million in payments to the states under the MSA, according to the company. J. Ronald Denman, General Tobacco executive vice president and general counsel, said: "The states should consider not only the vast amount of money that General Tobacco has paid them, but also the interests of the consumer at stake here. Consumers should not have to lose the choice of GT's brands over what the company considers to be a bona fide dispute over the interpretation of the MSA and its validity under federal and state law."

Though General Tobacco intends to comply with any de-listing, it informed the states that it is not in default on its MSA obligations because of the $95 million-plus credit, that any de-listing action should be halted while arbitration to determine application of the credit is pending, and General Tobacco and customers have not been given constitutionally adequate notice of the de-listings.

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