Poison Inc. LogoOwn a t-shirt that is part of history.
After 50 years of hiding the health risks associated with smoking, the lies of big tobacco caught up with them. The CEO’s of the major tobacco companies sat before congress and testified that they didn’t believe that cigarette smoking or nicotine was addictive. Most Americans were not fooled by their obvious lies and big tobacco began to take some serious financial hits in civil courts across the nation. In 1998 this forced them to enter into what is now called ” The Master Settlement Agreement”.

The MSA is an agreement between the four major tobacco companies and the Attorney Generals of 46 states. This agreement imposes monetary penalties as well as marketing and advertising restrictions on tobacco products. Funds from these penalties were meant to be spent in efforts to reduce teenage smoking and raise awareness of the associated health risks. In return the Attorney Generals agreed not to bring any further civil actions against these companies. It was this agreement that spawned many new cigarette manufacturers to pop up, as they didn’t have to pay the $3.90 a carton penalty imposed on big tobacco.

Poison Incorporated, with their Grim Reaper brand of cigarettes was one of these companies. Based on the premises of truth in advertising and with the ability to offer a quality cigarette at a lower price, they along with other fourth tier tobacco companies that had entered the market became a threat to big tobacco.

This resulted in big tobacco approaching the states Attorney Generals saying that the advantage given other companies that didn’t have to pay the penalties for past lies was going to cause them such a financial hardship that their ability to make MSA payments would be in jeopardy. The states, having become addicted to the MSA payments that they were using to shore up their faultering budgets, enacted laws that required fourth tier tobacco companies such as Poision Inc. to either, sign the MSA or enter into escrow the same amount of money that big tobacco was paying in penalties. If no civil actions were filed againt them, these funds would be returned after 25 years.

I don’t know about you, but this seems ridiculous to me. I have no doubt that smoking is hazardous to your health, but come on, if a company called Poison sells you a cigarettes named Grim Reapers in packaging displaying all the required federal heath warning, why would you expect them to pay the same penality as big tobacco that lied for fifty years about the heath risks.

Ok you say, this is uncontitutional and all Posion would need to do is bring suit against the states to get this law overturned. Well it seems the Attorneys involved in drafting the MSA incorporated within it’s structure a fifty million dollar fund to be used to defend against any challenges to the agreements constitutionality.

With no resources to challange big tobacco or the government and no desire to lay aside principals and sign what they now refer to as the “Master Extortion Agreement”, the officers of Poison Inc. decided to close their doors.

All that is left of their efforts to provide truth of advertising is this t-shirt, which had they signed the MSA, would be against the law to produce. That being the reason you don’t see Marlboro or Winston t-shirts anymore.

Get your Grim Reaper t-shirt here.