Decision could get millions flowing to anti-smoking programs in Pennsylvania

     (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    Pennsylvania has posted the latest win in a long, drawn-out fight over some of the money that tobacco companies pay to states.

    For years, there’s been a tug of war in Pennsylvania over $126 million, which is part of the huge Master Tobacco Settlement.

    Tobacco companies contribute hundreds of millions of dollars each year to help states pay for healthcare expenses related to smoking and tobacco use.

    Back in 2003, tobacco companies accused Pennsylvania of failing to follow-through on some of its settlement obligations. An arbitrator agreed, and penalized the state.

    Then, this month an appeals-court judge said that ruling was wrong.

    “She found that the arbitrators had improperly and contrary to the settlement agreement punished Pennsylvania with the additional $126 million,” said David Pittinsky, an attorney at Ballard Spahr.

    He says that means more money will flow to cancer research centers across the region.

    Ballard Spahr represents the Pennsylvania Cancer Alliance, a group of hospitals and cancer centers including Drexel University, Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania.

    Robert Loeb, an attorney with Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, represents the commonwealth.

    He says the appeals-court decision is big for smoking-cessation programs and cancer research.

    “It’s more than a paper win,” he said. “This is real money.”

    Still, Loeb said: “Like all things, it’s not over till it’s over.”

    The tobacco companies, including RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris could ask Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court to hear the case. They have 30 days to decide.

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