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More tobacco settlement money headed for NH

CONCORD - A new settlement with tobacco companies as a result of a 1998 landmark anti-smoking agreement means New Hampshire could get an additional $17 million.

Speaking with the Senate Ways and Means Committee Tuesday morning, Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice outlined the settlement New Hampshire and 18 others states have with the major tobacco companies involved in litigation.

The settlement was announced in December, and states will receive their share of $4 billion in disputed payments and the manufacturers will receive credits against future payments.The payments resulted from the 1998 national accord that obliges companies to help cover the health bills of ailing smokers.

U.S. cigarette makers, including Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, reached the settlement with the states, including New Hampshire, after a long-running dispute over the amount of payments they are required to make. The cigarette makers claimed the states did not force non-participating tobacco companies to pay into an escrow account as required.

Under the new settlement, New Hampshire would receive about $30 million of the approximately $45 million the tobacco companies have withheld over the last 10 years. The state would have to pay the companies back about $13 million.

The Senate is expected to act on a bill authorizing the settlement Thursday, and the House will likely hold a public hearing next week before acting on the bill.

The Legislature's authorization needs to be finalized by March 22, according to Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford.

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