HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana and a group of tobacco companies have reached an agreement that allows the state to collect its full share of $27 million in tobacco settlement payments from 2004.

Montana Department of Justice spokesman Eric Sell said Tuesday the lawsuit that led to the agreement could help resolve other tobacco payment disputes with the state in subsequent years.

Montana is one of 46 states that entered a 1998 master settlement in which tobacco companies agreed to pay billions each year for tobacco-related health costs and prevention programs.

The companies had argued they owed Montana less money than originally agreed upon because the state was not diligently enforcing its laws regarding tobacco manufacturers that weren't part of the settlement.

The July 18 agreement in Helena District Court allows the state to collect about $3.4 million in back payments and interest.