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§16-9B-1. Findings and purpose.

(a) Cigarette smoking presents serious public health concerns to the state and to the citizens of the state. The surgeon general has determined that smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease and other serious diseases, and that there are hundreds of thousands of tobaccorelated deaths in the United States each year. These diseases most often do not appear until many years after the person in question begins smoking.

(b) Cigarette smoking also presents serious financial concerns for the state. Under certain health-care programs, the state may have a legal obligation to provide medical assistance to eligible persons for health conditions associated with cigarette smoking, and those persons may have a legal entitlement to receive such medical assistance.

(c) Under these programs, the state pays millions of dollars each year to provide medical assistance for these persons for health conditions associated with cigarette smoking.

(d) It is the policy of the state that financial burdens imposed on the state by cigarette smoking be borne by tobacco product manufacturers rather than by the state to the extent that such manufacturers either determine to enter into a settlement with the state or are found culpable by the courts.

(e) On November 23, 1998, leading United States tobacco product manufacturers entered into a settlement agreement, entitled the "master settlement agreement", with the state. The master settlement agreement obligates these manufacturers, in return for a release of past, present and certain future claims against them as described therein, to pay substantial sums to the state (tied in part to their volume of sales); to fund a national foundation devoted to the interests of public health; and to make substantial changes in their advertising and marketing practices and corporate culture, with the intention of reducing underage smoking.

(f) It would be contrary to the policy of the state if tobacco product manufacturers who determine not to enter into such a settlement could use a resulting cost advantage to derive large, short-term profits in the years before liability may arise without ensuring that the state will have an eventual source of recovery from them if they are proven to have acted culpably. It is thus in the interest of the state to require that such manufacturers establish a reserve fund to guarantee a source of compensation and to prevent such manufacturers from deriving large, short-term profits and then becoming judgment-proof before liability may arise.

Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2017 Regular Session
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