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House Bill would help get funding for tobacco use prevention and cessation task force

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — West Virginia lawmakers are pushing for funding for an established tobacco use prevention and cessation task force, with a focus on lowering vaping rates among teenagers and young adults.

Delegate Mick Bates is the lead sponsor of House Bill 4494 and states that funding would go a long way people in West Virginia, “We want to fund these programs using this money.

They go out there and do the program, they come back and show us how the programs work and we allocate additional money to them to continue the program so this is a long-term effort over a number of years to drive down our rates of tobacco and nicotine products in West Virginia.”

The bill passed by the house would direct 25% of interest from the revenue shortfall reserve fund part b to a new account dedicated to supporting initiatives to reduce the use of tobacco and vaping products. Prior attempts to get funding for a program in the past, hasn’t been easy.

Julian Frederick Curry is the Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society of West Virginia and says that the state has minimal funding for prevention and cessation programs for tobacco and vaping, “The CDC recommends that West Virginia have about 27.4 million dollars directed for tobacco control programs and unfortunately our funds have been cut throughout the years until last year we were given 500,000 so there’s a significant need for more robust funding.” 

Health Care Professionals are concerned that if action on this issue isn’t taken seriously, the state can run into major issues.

We did the first double lung transplant on a 17-year-old kid, last November, so when they say that vaping is absolutely safer than smoking.. I don’t know of many people who have had to have double-lung transplant from smoking in just that short times. I would just encourage everyone to be very careful and cautious about proceeding thinking this is a safe alternative.”

State Senator Tom Takubo (R) Kanawha Majority Leader / Pulmonologist

The bills lead sponsor adds that it will help the state’s overall economy. Bates said, “Our state budget, and medicaid budget, as well as making West Virginia a place where business will want to invest because they have a healthy workforce, and we just don’t have that right now.”

The bill now heads to the senate finance committee and needs to be passed by the full senate before this Saturday to have a chance at becoming law.

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