Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in West Virginia. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association calls for the following actions to be taken by West Virginia's elected officials:
- Restoration of West Virginia state funding for tobacco prevention and cessation;
- Protect smokefree air regulations as they currently exist throughout the state; and
- Increase the age of sale for all tobacco products to 21.
The Senate Finance Committee Chairman announced, while discussing the Senate budget in committee, that an agreement had been reached and that no amendments to the budget would be offered, and in return, he would support future funding be restored for tobacco control.
A bill introduced by Senator Stollings, to increase the age of sale for tobacco products to 21, stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the House, a bill was similarly introduced by Representative Rowe to raise the legal age of sale for tobacco products to 21 but failed to move forward in the House Health and Human Resources Committee.
The Board of Health in Hancock County took a deeply disappointing action in 2018 amending its Clean Indoor Air regulation to allow smoking at casinos and gaming sections of local video lottery cafes. This will once again expose thousands of workers and patrons to toxic secondhand smoke. The Lung Association discourages other counties from following Hancock's bad example.
New leadership and direction from the Coalition for Tobacco Free West Virginia (CTFWV) has placed an emphasis on the need for shared information, collaboration throughout the state, and building local support.
The Lung Association is working on bi-partisan sponsorship of a Tobacco 21 bill to introduce during the 2019 legislative session. Findings from a representative survey of over 3,000 West Virginian voters who voted in the 2016 election indicate that almost two thirds (63.2%) favor raising the legal sales age for tobacco products from 18 to 21. Additionally, the survey found that the majority of both Democrats and Republicans support Tobacco 21. Only about 1 in 7 West Virginia voters strongly oppose raising the legal sales age for tobacco products.
The American Lung Association in West Virginia will continue to educate lawmakers in the ongoing fight against tobacco. Our goal is to identify champions within the legislator and continue to build a strong state coalition to advance our advocacy goals, including restoration of West Virginia state funding for tobacco prevention and cessation, protection of smokefree indoor air regulations, and increasing the age of sale for all tobacco products to 21
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