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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 19, 2004
General Tobacco Joins Master Settlement Agreement


OLYMPIA -- Attorney General Christine Gregoire announced today that Vibo Corporation of Miami, Florida has joined the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) and will pay Washington State $1.5 million immediately and approximately $35 million over the next ten years.

Vibo, which does business as General Tobacco, was the largest remaining tobacco company not signed on to the MSA. It is the exclusive U.S. importer of cigarettes from Protabaco, S.A., based in Bogota, Colombia, and sells a number of cigarette brands, including Bronco, GT One, Champion and Silver.

"This is a big step in our fight to reduce the terrible toll of tobacco," said Gregoire, the lead negotiator of the landmark 1998 tobacco settlement. "It means another large company will pay for tobacco prevention and public health programs and be prohibited from marketing to kids."

Under the agreement, Washington will receive an upfront payment of approximately $1.5 million as soon as next week, and an additional $35 million over the next ten years. The agreement, under current market conditions, is projected to be worth approximately $1.7 billion to all the states over ten years.

Washington uses the settlement revenue primarily to fund tobacco prevention and control and health care for the underprivileged. In addition, Vibo will now be subject to the MSA's advertising and marketing restrictions, which include bans on targeting youth, outdoor advertising and distribution of merchandise advertising a cigarette brand. The outdoor advertising bans cover billboards, signs and placards in arenas, stadiums, shopping malls, and video game arcades. Merchandise bans include caps, T-shirts, backpacks, bookbags, and other brand name gear.

Gregoire said since the MSA, youth smoking rates have declined substantially. She credits the settlement-funded American Legacy Foundation's "truth" campaign and the Washington Department of Health and its partners for their "tough and creative" youth smoking prevention campaign.

The programs brought declines in youth smoking of 53% among Washington 6th graders, 39% among 8th graders, 40% among 10th graders, and 36% among 12th graders from 1998 to 2002, according to the Department of Health.

The MSA was originally entered into between 46 states and the major tobacco companies in 1998. Since then, more than 40 tobacco companies have joined.

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