Tobacco cos. make payments under state settlement

RICHMOND, Va. — The nation’s top cigarette makers say they’ve made annual payments as part of a settlement in which some companies are paying states billions for smoking-related health care costs.

Philip Morris USA, the nation’s largest cigarette maker, said Tuesday it made its payment of $3.3 billion as part of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement. It’s owned by Richmond-based Altria Group Inc.

No. 2 R.J. Reynolds Tobacco paid $1.77 billion. It’s owned by Reynolds American Inc., based in Winston-Salem, N.C.

No. 3 Lorillard Inc., based in Greensboro, N.C., paid $1.1 billion.

All three companies deposited the part of their payments into a disputed account as allowed under the settlement.

Public health officials have long criticized states for using only a small portion of settlement money to fund tobacco-prevention programs.

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