American Lung Association “State of Tobacco Control” report releases West Virginia grades for tobacco control policies, outlines steps to reduce burden of tobacco
CHARLESTON, WV – (January 24, 2024) –
Today, the American Lung Association released the 22nd annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, which finds that West Virginia is among the worst states for policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use, receiving four F grades and one D grade. West Virginia is also the worst state in the nation for adult smoking and high school tobacco use; and among the worst for tobacco control policies.
This year’s report noted the need for West Virginia policymakers to focus on addressing high rates of tobacco use and increase funding for tobacco control, eliminating punitive youth possession, use and purchase laws through evidence-based policies and programs and preserving local control of smokefree regulations The “State of Tobacco Control” report evaluates state and federal policies on actions taken to eliminate tobacco use and recommends proven-effective tobacco control laws and policies to save lives.
“Tobacco use is the leading cause of death in West Virginia and across the country and takes the lives of 4,280 state residents each year. The tobacco industry will do anything to protect their profits at the expense of West Virginia lives, so we must push forward in our efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” said Aimee Van Cleave, Director of Advocacy at the American Lung Association in West Virginia. “We are calling on state policymakers to expand tobacco control funding to address the high rates of tobacco use, including among young West Virginians; eliminating punitive youth possession and purchase laws; and preserving local control of smokefree laws.”
Priority Calls to Action:
Increase funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs and eliminate punitive youth possession, use and purchase laws. Despite receiving $226.7 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, West Virginia only extends less than half a million to fund tobacco control efforts. Here in West Virginia, the adult smoking rate and the high school tobacco use rate is highest in the nation at 21% and and 27% repectively. The Lung Association urges Governor Jim Justice and the state legislature to address the disproportional high burden of tobacco use in the state by increasing funding for tobacco control programs and eliminating ineffective punitive youth possession, use and purchase laws that fail to address youth initiation of tobacco products.
Passing a comprehensive smokefree law. The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Passing a comprehensive smokefree law that eliminates smoking in all public places and workplaces, including restaurants, bars and casinos, would protect workers across the state from deadly secondhand smoke.
West Virginia’s Grades
The “State of Tobacco Control” report grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. In the 2024 report, West Virginia received the following grades:
- Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – GradeF
- Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – GradeD
- Level of State Tobacco Taxes – GradeF
- Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – GradeF
- Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products – GradeF
Federal Grades Overview
This year’s report focuses on recent federal actions, including President Biden’s failure to finalize rules to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, as well as FDA’s overdue review of all applications for e-cigarette products, including flavors that are popular among youth. Because of the delay on the federal rules to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, it is even more important for states to enact laws to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products.
The 2024 “State of Tobacco Control” report grades the federal government in five areas:
- Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products – Grade C
- Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments – Grade D
- Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes – Grade F
- Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use – Grade: A
- Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Incomplete*
*State Funding for Tobacco Prevention Programs grades in “State of Tobacco Control” reflect actions taken by elected officials and do not reflect on the hard work of state tobacco control programs or advocates.
The Lung Association calls on the White House to urgently finalize rules to end the sales of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars in the U.S. to save lives now. Send an email to President Biden at Lung.org/Stop-Menthol to insist these rules be finalized urgently.To learn more about this year’s “State of Tobacco Control” grades and take action, visit Lung.org/sotc.