CHARLESTON - State Attorney General Darrell McGraw recently announced that the state will receive approximately $500,000 of a multi-state $55.4 million settlement with House of Prince A/S, a member of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.

West Virginia filed a lawsuit in September 2002 against Carolina Tobacco Co., alleging that it was selling House of Prince cigarettes without being part of the MSA. On Dec. 22, it, along with other states, announced the figure it would receive.

The MSA requires tobacco manufacturers that have signed the agreement to make annual payments to the 46 states for health care costs.

The MSA includes Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., four territories and every state except Florida, Mississippi, Minnesota and Texas, which all settle their own tobacco disputes.

The National Association of Attorneys General, a group of states' top lawyers, say they created the MSA for the central reason of reducing smoking. It also says that cigarette sales are down 21 percent since the first settlement in 1997.

"I am pleased that the settlement of this long-standing dispute provides the state money it is owed and preserves the MSA's integrity," McGraw said.

Of the states that have so far released their figure from the settlement, California has received the most with $7.15 million. The settlement finished a three-year dispute over whether cigarettes manufactured by a House of Prince affiliate and sold by Carolina from 1999-2003 were subject to the MSA's payment requirements. House of Prince stopped selling its cigarettes to U.S. distributors in 2003.

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