CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A new report finds West Virginia rated as one of the worst states for tobacco prevention and reduction policies.
The American Lung Association’s 21st annual State of Tobacco Control report, released Wednesday, indicates that in 2023 the state had poor marks in the following areas:
- Promotion of Government Tobacco Prevention Programs – Level F
- Strength of smoke-free workplace laws – Class D
- Amount of State Tobacco Taxes – Class F
- Coverage and Access to Smoking Cessation Services – Class F
- Discontinued sale of all flavored tobacco products – Class F
Doug Hogan, West Virginia director of government relations for the American Cancer Society’s Action Network, told MetroNews’ Talkline Wednesday that the information is eye-opening. He said that high smoking rates come with costs.
“The cost is truly astronomical just looking at the state of West Virginia. They’re talking about $1.17 billion in annual health care spending on health care costs,” he said.
Hogan said state legislators should improve health through proven measures like increasing funding for prevention programs to help people quit, not switch to e-cigarettes.
“A great place to start is Senate Bill 84 with Senator (Tom) Takubo,” Hogan said.
SB 84, to be submitted to the Senate Health and Personnel Committee, would increase taxes on tobacco products, including a $1.50 per pack increase in the price of cigarettes.
“Basically what you would do with this tax is you would change the trajectory of a family becoming smokers generation after generation to break that cycle,” Hogan said.
The American Heart Association said West Virginia receives $232.4 million from tobacco offset payments and tobacco taxes. The state is funding tobacco control efforts at just 6.1 percent of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The association also proposes that no-smoking laws be retained, banning smoking, including e-cigarettes, from all public places and workplaces.
The report also evaluated the federal government for its efforts to eliminate tobacco use. State tobacco tax rates received an “F” rating, while federal mass media prevention campaigns received an “A” rating.
Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in America, according to the AHA. More than 4,200 West Virginians die each year as a result of smoking or other forms of tobacco use.