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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA)?

TThe Master Settlement Agreement (or MSA) is a legal contract between 46 states, including California, and five U.S. Territories, with participating tobacco manufacturers. It was entered into in 1998. The MSA restricts cigarette advertising and marketing by participating tobacco manufacturers in various ways, including a ban on cartoons in tobacco advertisements, youth exposure to sampling, certain sponsorships, and most outdoor advertisements. See Resources for the Tobacco Settlement Summary, which includes a complete list of MSA restrictions.  The MSA also obligates participating tobacco manufacturers to make ongoing payments to the states.  To date, California has been paid over $13 billion.

I saw a tobacco billboard. To whom do I report this?

Contact the Tobacco Litigation and Enforcement Section so we can check out the situation and take appropriate action. We can be reached on our Tobacco Complaint Line at (916) 565-6486 or our Email Complaint Form

Where can I view tobacco industry documents?

You may find links to view tobacco industry documents by going to our Resources web page.

Can the Attorney General's office represent me in a private lawsuit against the tobacco industry?

No. The Attorney General cannot represent private individuals. You will have to hire a private attorney to represent you. One way to find an attorney is to contact your county's bar association lawyer referral service or you may want to contact the Public Health Advocacy Institute www.phaionline.org/.

Where can I get more information about quitting smoking?

A variety of websites and other resources are available. The California Department of Health Services has information available by calling 1-800-NO-BUTTS and at http://nobutts.ucsd.edu.

I thought that the tobacco issue was behind us? I can’t believe there is still a Tobacco Litigation and Enforcement Section.

We wish that were correct. Although the percentage of smokers in California has steadily dropped in recent decades (in 1988 the adult smoking rate was 23.7%, in 2013 it was 11.7%; in 2000 21.6% of high school students reported smoking a cigarette in the past 30 days, by 2012 that number dropped to 10.5%) there are still about four million smokers in California. Smoking remains the number one preventable cause of death and disease, killing about 480,000 Americans each year. By some estimates, unless there are effective tobacco control measures globally about one billion people will die of smoking-related causes during the course of this century.

I saw someone vaping (or using an electronic cigarette) in a place where I know you’re not allowed to smoke. Is that legal?

It depends. Many local governments, transit systems, educational establishments, buildings and businesses have regulations or policies prohibiting or regulating use of electronic cigarettes and other “vape” devices in the same manner as combustible tobacco products.

I saw a TV advertisement for an electronic cigarette. Is that legal?

Probably yes. Unlike cigarettes, there is at present no law prohibiting advertising of electronic cigarettes on television.

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