CHARLESTON, WV (WBOY) – West Virginia received low marks from the American Lung Association in its annual “State of Tobacco Control” report.
Tobacco use is the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year, officials say and much like COVID-19, tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure disproportionately impact certain communities, including communities of color, LGTBQ+ Americans and persons of lower income.
The report looks at five different areas to come up with its grades:
- Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
- Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade D
- Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
- Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade F
- Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products(new in 2021 report) – Grade F
West Virginia joins Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee as the only states with four “F’s” and a “D.” Pennsylvania scored three “F’s” and two “D’s.”
Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming all got all “F’s” on their reports.
“In West Virginia, our adult smoking rates are 23.8% and high school tobacco use rates are 40.6%. The surge in youth vaping combined with the fact that smoking increases the chance of severe COVID-19 symptoms, make it more important than ever for West Virginia to implement the proven measures outlined in the ‘State of Tobacco Control’ to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” said American Lung Association Director of Advocacy Molly Pisciottano.
West Virginia has the opportunity to take action and prioritize increased tobacco program funding, preserve local control of smokefree air laws throughout the state and increase tobacco taxes in order to support public health and save lives in 2020. The need for West Virginia to take action to protect youth from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, is more urgent than ever, with the youth vaping epidemic continuing. With 1 in 5 teens vaping, our children are becoming the next generation addicted to tobacco, the report says.
The report also evaluated regulations restricting smoking in all 55 West Virginia counties, and assigned them letter grades from A to F based on the strength of the regulation. Thirty counties earned A grades, 13 earned B grades, 7 earned C grades, 3 earned D grades and 2 counties earned F grades.