CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The American Heart Association in West Virginia says “it can’t hurt” to share anti-tobacco advertisements, but the timing of the messages are long overdue.

“Is it a little bit too late? Maybe, but is there still plenty of population left to penetrate, change, influence and keep from using tobacco? Absolutely,” said Christine Compton, government relations director for AHA in Charleston.

It was announced Monday tobacco companies are now being forced to run ads about the real dangers of smoking. The ads will run on major television networks and newspapers.

Two of the biggest cigarette companies, Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, were forced to advertise the deadly and addictive affects of smoking, according to a court order. It comes more than 11 years after a judge ruled the companies had mislead the public about the dangers of cigarettes.

In West Virginia, Compton said smoking rates have declined over the years, but still remain a leading cause of preventable death and illness, especially in young adults.

“We have 18 percent of our high school students that are smoking — whereas nationally it’s about 10 percent,” she said.

About 30 percent of West Virginia adults smoke compared to the national average of 15 percent, Compton said.

“We have a lot of work to do,” she said. “Hopefully these types of advertising and this type of information sharing with the public will help reduce that trouble with tobacco.”

According to a joint statement with the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, National African American Tobacco Prevention Network and the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund, “the ads will finally run after 11 years of appeals by the tobacco companies aimed at delaying and weakening them.”

Compton said they also hope the advertisements will encourage political leaders to enact policies to help bring about the first tobacco-free generation.

“The tobacco industry spends a fortune trying to dismantle policy or keep policy from being passed that could help improve public health when it comes to things like tobacco control, so we certainly do support this effort,” she said.

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