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West Virginia Judiciary Committee Passes Weak Bill that Lets Tobacco Companies Write Public Health Policy

(February 25, 2019) - CHARLESTON, W.V.

For more information please contact:

Ewa Dworakowski
[email protected]
717-971-1123

Statement of the American Lung Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and Americans for Non Smokers’ Rights, in response to Friday’s passage of Senate Bill 348 by the West Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee that fails to hold tobacco retailers accountable for selling tobacco products to youth and young adults:

“On Friday February 22, 2019, the West Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee voted to pass Senate Bill 348 that would raise the age to purchase tobacco products – including e-cigarettes – to 21,but amended the bill to include poison pill amendments that severely weakens the law and puts the lives of West Virginia youth at risk. Our organizations are deeply concerned about these amendments, which will undercut the law's effectiveness and will not protect West Virginia's current and future generations from a lifetime of suffering from tobacco-related death and disease. The provisions include the following:

  • Requires smoking sections. Exemption and preemption of local smokefree laws to apply to veterans’ organizations
  • Rather than cracking down on retailers selling tobacco to minors, the bill harshly penalizes kids, which has not been proven to effectively reduce youth tobacco use

“As currently written, Senate Bill 348 (Tobacco 21) exposes members of active duty military and veterans and their families to deadly secondhand smoke. It also takes away the right of local governments to protect the health of their citizens and pass stronger tobacco control laws than the state. This is unacceptable.

“Comprehensive and strong Tobacco 21 laws prevent tobacco use and save lives. Tobacco use is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing an estimated 480,000 Americans each year. According to the Lung Association’s ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report, in West Virginia there are 4,280 smoking-related deaths each year. In fact, a shocking 31.3 percent of adults and 40.8 percent of youth use at least one tobacco product, some of the highest rates in the United States. In addition, tobacco use causes or worsens a wide range of adverse health effects, including lung cancer, heart disease, respiratory infections, and asthma.
“As required by the Tobacco Control Act, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioned the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) to conduct a study on ‘the public health implications of raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products. The expert study released publicly in April 2015 concluded that increasing the national minimum age of sale for tobacco products to at least 21 years old would significantly reduce youth tobacco use and save thousands of lives.

“West Virginia legislators must and can do better to protect our youth and to reduce its staggering rates of tobacco use by opposing these dangerous amendments. Our state legislators should not allow the tobacco industry to block local governments from passing comprehensive clean indoor air legislation.

“The American Lung Association and its partner health organizations will continue working with state leaders to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease.”

To learn more about Tobacco 21 laws visit Lung.org/tobacco21, and more information about the youth e-cigarette epidemic may be found at Lung.org/ecigs. For media interested in speaking with an expert about tobacco control policies, e-cigarettes, tobacco use and lung health, contact the American Lung Association, Eastern Division Communications Director Ewa Dworakowski at [email protected] or 717-503-3903. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @AmericanLungWV and on Instagram at @LungMidAtlantic.

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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 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: Lung.org.

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