20th Annual ‘State of Tobacco Control’ Report Reveals West Virginia Earns Failing Grades and Still Lags Behind on Policies to Reduce Tobacco Use

New report reveals West Virginia tobacco control successes over past 20 years, and outlines path to end tobacco use and save lives

The American Lung Association’s 20th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, released today, reveals significant progress in the work to end tobacco use, but products like e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, create concern for losing another generation to nicotine addiction. The report finds that West Virginia earned failing grades on passing policies to reduce and prevent tobacco use, including e-cigarettes.  

The “State of Tobacco Control” report evaluates state and federal policymakers on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use, the nation’s leading cause of preventable death. The report recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives. The 2022 “State of Tobacco Control” reveals that the country has made substantial progress in advancing tobacco control policies over the past 20 years, including comprehensive smokefree laws in more states, increased tobacco taxes across the nation and more Americans with access to treatments to help them quit smoking through state Medicaid programs.  

“While we have seen progress in West Virginia], tobacco use remains our leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 4,280 lives each year,” said Molly Pisciottano, Director of Advocacy at the American Lung Association in West Virginia. “And our progress on tobacco control policy has not been equal. We continue to see the unequal burden of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in communities experiencing health disparities.” 

West Virginia’s Grades  

“State of Tobacco Control” 2022 grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. West Virginia received the following grades:  

1. Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F 

2. Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade D 

3. Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F 

4. Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade F 

5. Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products   - Grade F 

This year’s report noted the need for West Virginia policymakers to focus on funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs, preserve local control of smokefree air laws and increase tobacco taxes and equalize rates across all products. 

Increase funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs. An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic.  

“Despite receiving $232.6 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, West Virginia only funds tobacco control efforts at 6.1% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Lung Association believes the funds should be used to support the health of our communities, and to prevent tobacco use and help people quit, and not switch to e-cigarettes. These programs are also critical for helping to end tobacco-related health disparities,” said Pisciottano. 

Preserve local control of smokefree air laws throughout state. The ability for local boards of health to do what is best for their communities, including taking action on local issues such as implementing or strengthening smokefree regulations is increasingly important, and unfortunately already at risk due to SB12 that passed in 2021. “The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” said Pisciottano. “Allowing counties and localities to pass comprehensive smokefree laws that eliminate smoking in all public places and workplaces, including restaurants, bars and casinos, would protect workers and patrons across the state from deadly secondhand smoke. For the health of all, e-cigarettes should also be included in comprehensive smokefree laws.”  

Increase Tobacco Taxes. One of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, not only among low-income individuals but also for youth, is to significantly increase the tax on all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Multiple studies have shown that every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by about 4% among adults and about 7% among youth. West Virginia has not significantly increased its tobacco tax since 2016 and is still woefully below the national average at $1.20 per pack. 

“To protect kids from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, the Lung Association in West Virginia encourages the state to increase cigarette taxes ideally by $1.00 per pack and equalize the tax on other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and cigars with its cigarette tax,” said Pisciottano. 

Federal Grades Overview 

1. “State of Tobacco Control” 2022 also grades the federal government in five areas:  

2. Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products (2022 grade – D) 

3. Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments (2022 grade – D) 

4. Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes (2022 grade – F) 

5. Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use (2022 grade – A) 

Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 (2022 grade – I*) 

* The Incomplete grade is for the FDA being more than 18 months overdue in publishing the final Tobacco 21 regulations as required by statute. 

“In 2022, West Virginia needs to redouble its efforts to pass the proven policies called for in ‘State of Tobacco Control’ to help end tobacco use. We cannot afford to wait 20 more years and allow another generation to suffer from tobacco-caused addiction, disease and death,” said Pisciottano. 

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 at [email protected] or 717-971-1123.  

 

For more information, contact:

Valerie Gleason
717-971-1123
[email protected]

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