While Smoking Rates Decline Nationwide, West Virginia Lags Behind in Efforts to Reduce Tobacco Use, Save Lives; American Lung Association Report Finds | American Lung Association

While Smoking Rates Decline Nationwide, West Virginia Lags Behind in Efforts to Reduce Tobacco Use, Save Lives; American Lung Association Report Finds

2018 ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report finds West Virginia lawmakers can do more to reduce tobacco use by restoring West Virginia’s state funding for tobacco prevention and cessation and increasing the tobacco excise tax to be in line with the national average to benefit all West Virginians

*Editor’s Note: For B-roll and to download soundbites with Deb Brown, Executive Vice President, American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic click here. Please contact us for more detailed interviews.

(January 24, 2018) - CHARLESTON, W.V.

For more information please contact:

Ewa Dworakowski
Ewa.Dworakowski@lung.org
717-541-5864 ext. 130

The American Lung Association’s 2018 “State of Tobacco Control” shows West Virginia could have done more to save lives by implementing proven tobacco policies. The 16th annual report grades states and the federal government on policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and finds that West Virginia lags significantly behind the nation to reduce and prevent tobacco use, and state policymakers must do more to prevent the death and disease associated with tobacco use and save lives.

“Nationwide, smoking rates have continued to decline to historically low levels, yet tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease killing more than 480,000 Americans each year,” said Deborah P. Brown, Executive Vice President, American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic. “Tobacco use is a serious addiction, and the fact that 24.8 percent of West Virginia residents are current smokers highlights how much work remains to be done in our communities to prevent and reduce tobacco use.”

This year’s “State of Tobacco Control” finds Governor Jim Justice and the state legislature are failing to enact proven policies that will reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke and save lives:

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  • Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade C*
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade D
  • Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade F

*West Virginia has 65.1 percent of the state’s population covered by comprehensive local smokefree workplace regulations. If a state has more than 50 percent of its population covered by local smokefree ordinances/ regulations, the state is graded based on population covered by those
local ordinances/regulations rather than the statewide law.

The American Lung Association in West Virginia calls on Governor Justice and other West Virginia policymakers to act and restore West Virginia’s state funding for tobacco prevention and cessation; protect clean indoor air regulations as they currently exist throughout the state; and increase tobacco excise tax to be in line with the national average.

Sadly, the report also details that, as a result of decades of targeted marketing by the tobacco industry, too many Americans haven’t seen the benefits of reduced smoking rates, and West Virginia and the federal government could do more to ensure all Americans benefit from tobacco control efforts. According to the American Lung Association:

  • There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and if West Virginia would pass a comprehensive smokefree law that eliminates smoking in all public places and workplaces, workers across the state would benefit. This is especially critical for those who work in the service and manufacturing sectors who are often exposed to secondhand smoke daily. A person should not have to be exposed to the dangers of secondhand smoke to put food on the table.
  • If West Virginia would restore/increase funding for tobacco control programs, they would have a powerful opportunity to target these programs to communities that still use tobacco at higher rates and who have been targeted by the tobacco industry. West Virginia receives $332 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, and should use more of these funds to help prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit.
  • Increasing tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, not only for low-income individuals, but also for youth. To protect kids from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, the Lung Association encourages West Virginia to increase the tobacco excise tax to be in line with the national average. This step is critical to West Virginia as current tobacco use among youth is 16.2 percent.
  • Tobacco is a highly addictive product, and close to 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette by the age of 21. More must be done to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use in West Virginia, and one powerful tool is increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21. In fact, the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) found increasing the minimum age of sale for all tobacco products to 21 could prevent 223,000 deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019, including 50,000 fewer dying from lung cancer – the nation’s leading cancer killer.

“In West Virginia, an estimated 4,280 people die from smoking each year. We know how to reduce tobacco use in West Virginia and across the country. ‘State of Tobacco Control’ looks at proven methods to save lives and protect the health of all Americans,” said Brown. “West Virginia elected officials must act to implement these proven policies, which will prevent tobacco-caused death and disease, and help keep our lungs healthy.”

West Virginia Local Smokefree Regulation Grades

The American Lung Association in West Virginia has evaluated regulations restricting smoking in all 55 West Virginia counties, and assigned them letter grades from A to F based on the strength of the regulation.  The counties and grades are displayed in the chart below.
Thirty-four counties earned A grades, 11 earned B grades, 8 earned C grades and 2 counties earned F grades.

An “A” grade means smoking is prohibited in virtually all public places and workplaces, and an “F” grade means protections from secondhand smoke are inadequate or non-existent. West Virginia received a “C” grade for Smokefree Air in the American Lung Association’s 2018 “State of Tobacco Control” report.  This is due to the large percentage of West Virginia’s population covered by local smokefree regulations. 

For more information please contact Chaste Barclay with the American Lung Association in West Virginia: 304-984-6073 or chaste.barclay@lung.org .

County

Grade

County

Grade

County

Grade

Barbour

A

Kanawha/Charleston

A

Preston

A

Berkeley

A

Lewis

A

Putnam

F

Boone

A

Lincoln

A

Raleigh/Beckley

B

Braxton

A

Logan

C

Randolph

A

Brooke

A

Marion

C

Ritchie

A

Cabell/Huntington

A

Marshall

B

Roane

A

Calhoun

A

Mason

A

Summers

A

Clay

B

McDowell

C

Taylor

A

Doddridge

A

Mercer

C

Tucker

A

Fayette

B

Mineral

A

Tyler

C

Gilmer

F

Mingo

B

Upshur

A

Grant

A

Monongalia

A

Wayne

B

Greenbrier

A

Monroe

A

Webster

B

Hampshire

A

Morgan

B

Wetzel

C

Hancock

A

 Nicholas

A

Wirt

A

Hardy

C

Ohio/Wheeling

B

Wood

A

Harrison

A

Pendleton

A

Wyoming

B

Jackson

B

Pleasants

A

 

 

Jefferson

C

Pocahontas

A

 

 

For media interested in speaking with an expert about the “State of Tobacco Control” report, lung health, tobacco use and tobacco control policies, contact the American Lung Association in West Virginia Communications Director Ewa Dworakowski at Ewa.Dworakowski@lung.org or 717-971-1123 or 717-503-3903 (cell).

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About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.

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