CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia and 11 other states make up what the Truth Initiative is calling “Tobacco Nation” in a new report which finds smoking rates in that part of the United States are among some of the highest in the entire world.
The Truth Initiative identifies “Tobacco Nation” as 12 contiguous states: West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Nationwide, smoking rates for traditional cigarettes have reach historic lows, especially among young people, said Robin Koval, president and CEO of the Truth Initiative.
From the Upper Midwest to the South, though, she said the smoking rates undermine the national achievement with rates above 22 percent, compared with 15 percent in the rest of the U.S.
West Virginia’s smoking rate is around 25 percent.
Among adults, the smoking rate in all of “Tobacco Nation” is one of the five heaviest smoking countries globally alongside the Philippines, Indonesia, Ukraine and China, the Truth Initiative report showed.
For youth smoking, the 12 states are behind only Indonesia, Ukraine and Mexico.
Koval said it does not have to be that way.
“There’s every opportunity for ‘Tobacco Nation’ to catch up and to get their smoking rates down,” she told MetroNews in a Thursday interview. “There’s no reason West Virginia couldn’t have the same smoking rate as the state of California.”
California is one of five states where those buying tobacco have to be 21 or older.
Her other suggestions for changes to get West Virginia out of “Tobacco Nation” include higher tobacco taxes, additional smoke-free and tobacco-prevention policies, public education efforts and access to resources for quitting.
“There’s nothing about the people in West Virginia that says, for some reason, they have to smoke more than the folks in California,” Koval said.
“It’s all about making it easier for people to quit, harder for people to start, resisting the influence of the tobacco industry.”
A link to the full “Tobacco Nation” report from the Truth Initiative, a non-profit public health organization, is available HERE.