A judge says he's releasing 318 million dollars to tobacco growers in 14 states that cigarette-makers paid into a trust fund as part of a
multibillion-dollar anti-smoking settlement. The tobacco companies had fought unsuccessfully in North Carolina courts to get refunds of the money. They argued that they have begun paying more than 417 million dollars so far this year for the quota buyout, so they shouldn't have to make the final payment that was due last December. North Carolina Business Court Judge Ben Tennille told the attorneys in the case that he sees no reason to delay the release of the money. The money represents payments by cigarette makers for the first three quarters of 2004. The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled last month that the
companies must make Phase Two payments for 2004 because they had not started paying for the quota buyout at the time.