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W.Va. must continue fight against tobacco

By Staff | Mar 2, 2009

The grades are out and the state of West Virginia is failing to protect public health from the dangers of tobacco. Last week, the State received an F for every category (excise tax, smoke free air, prevention and cessation spending, and cessation coverage) in the American Lung Associations State of Tobacco Control 2008 report.

Adult smoking rates in the State increased from 25.7 percent in 2006 to 26.9 percent in 2007, and high school smoking rates jumped from 25.3 percent in 2005 to 27.6 percent in 2007. While much of the nation has seen their smoking rates drop, ours has increased.

Many good programs are happening in West Virginia such as Freedom From Smoking, Not On Tobacco, Teens Against Tobacco Use and RAZE, but we need to do more. Tobacco is the number one preventable cause of death in our state, killing 3,900 people every year, and costing our state $690 million annually in health care costs. We can no longer ignore this substantial financial drain.

This must be the year that West Virginia leaders finally pass policies that not only protect our children from a lifetime of tobacco addiction but also reduce the crushing burden that tobacco use places on our health care system and economy.

The American Lung Association in West Virginia will continue to advocate for cleaner air and more stringent tobacco control and prevention programs in 2009. Now is the time to improve the health of all citizens here and pass strong tobacco control policies.

Tim Higgins

Chair, West Virginia Board of Advisors

American Lung Association

Mid Atlantic Region