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More than 700 Lung Health Advocates to Rally at WV Capitol; Calling on lawmakers to Restore Millions of Slashed Tobacco Prevention Funding

Youth advocates will also call on state lawmakers to raise minimum sales age for tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21

(January 11, 2019) - CHARLESTON, W.V.

On Friday, January 25, 2019 the American Lung Association in West Virginia and Raze will host more than 700 lung health advocates, many of them youth, from across the Mountain State, urging West Virginia lawmakers to restore tobacco prevention and education funding to $5.65 million. These funds – which were eliminated in 2017 and 2018 -  will be used to educate youth on the dangers to tobacco use, protect West Virginians from the effects of secondhand smoke and provide tobacco cessation and prevention resources, saving younger West Virginia generations from a lifetime of tobacco addiction.

“Tobacco use is a serious addiction and remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease killing more than 480,000 Americans each year,” said Sarah Lawver, advocacy director, American Lung Association in West Virginia. “Here in West Virginia, the high school tobacco use rate totals more than 40 percent, according to the 2018 State of Tobacco Control report. This highlights why this funding desperately needs to be restored and how much work remains to be done in our communities to prevent and reduce tobacco use.” The 2019 State of Tobacco Control report will be release January 30.

Additionally, advocates are requesting lawmakers raise the minimum sales age for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21. Increasing the sales age for all tobacco products could have a big impact on youth tobacco use in West Virginia and across the nation. 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.

“I’m joining hundreds of youth at the capitol, because I’m searching for one of our lawmakers to step up and become our voice and Up The Age WV!” said Raze member Stephanie Santilli, Barbour County. Raze is a youth lead movement throughout all of West Virginia to help bring awareness to the dangers of tobacco and tear down tobacco industry.

“There is ‘substantial evidence’ that if a youth or young adult uses an e-cigarette, they are at increased risk of using traditional cigarettes,” said Lawver. “The Food and Drug Administration has not found any e-cigarette to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit. If smokers are ready to quit smoking for good, they should call 1-800-LUNG-USA to get more information about the Freedom From Smoking program or talk with their doctors about finding the best way to quit using FDA-approved treatments and counseling.”

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. West Virginia would join the District of Columbia and six states – California, Hawaii, Maine, Mass., New Jersey and Oregon - as well as cities such as: New York, Boston, Chicago and close to 300 other communities nationwide that have led the way to increase the age of sale from 18 to 21.

Learn more about smokefree efforts in West Virginia in the American Lung Association’s 2018 “State of Tobacco Control” report. The 2019 report is scheduled to be release on January 30. For media interested in attending the rally or in speaking with an expert about tobacco control and youth use of tobacco, contact the American Lung Association’s Eastern Division Communications Director Ewa Dworakowski at [email protected] or 717-971-1123, 717-503-3903 (cell).


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 coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit:

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