MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Cigarette smoking is responsible for one in five deaths in America, making tobacco the nation’s leading cause of preventable death, according to the CDC. In an effort to evaluate tobacco laws nationwide, the American Lung Association released its 20th annual State of Tobacco Control report. The report looks at tobacco control laws and policies in each state and the District of Columbia.
The 2022 State of Tobacco Control grades states based on five areas:
- Funding for state tobacco prevention programs
- Strength of smoke-free workplace laws
- Level of state tobacco taxes
- Coverage and access to services to quit tobacco
- Ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products
West Virginia received failing grades from ALA in all areas except smoke-free workplace laws, which received a D. The report mentions efforts that were made during the 2021 session, including a bill to increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation and the tobacco tax increase in Gov. Jim Justice’s budget proposal. Neither of those efforts passed in the West Virginia legislature. The report also criticizes a bill that passed that ALA said would make it harder for local boards of health to implement smoke-free air regulations. Finally, ALA states that West Virginia only funds tobacco control efforts at 6% of the level recommended by the CDC, despite receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in tobacco settlement payments and taxes.
“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, not switch to e-cigarettes. These programs are also critical for helping to end tobacco-related health disparities,” said Molly Pisciottano, Director of Advocacy at the American Lung Association in West Virginia.
As well as funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs at the CDC recommended level, the report recommends that West Virginia preserve local control of smoke-free air laws throughout the state, increase tobacco taxes and equalize rates across all tobacco products.
“We cannot afford to wait 20 more years and allow another generation to suffer from tobacco-caused addiction, disease, and death,” said Pisciottano.