CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There has been a significant decline in the number of people who smoke in West Virginia, according to survey numbers released by the state Department of Health and Human Resources Tuesday.

Data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, which was conducted by the state DHHR’s Health Statistics Center, shows a nearly two percent decrease in the number of West Virginia adults who smoke. In 2011, about 28.6 percent of adults smoked. That number dropped to 24.8 percent in 2016.

Dr. Rahul Gupta

Dr. Rahul Gupta, state health officer and commissioner of the state DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health, said it’s important to keep the momentum going.

“It’s good that we recognize the success of the efforts that folks have had across the state. It’s important that the needle is currently moving in the right direction. We need to continue to move,” he said.

Gupta said educating high school and middle school students about the dangers of smoking has played a key role in decreasing the adult smoking numbers.

“Now we’re finally starting the see those kids graduated high school, become adults and have an impact on the adult population knowing and being educated that those cigarettes have an impact not just on personal health, but also have an impact on your family and your children,” he said.

Despite the good news, Gupta said smoking is still a problem in West Virginia.

“Smoking takes a toll on people and their families and their communities in a way that almost no other addiction does. This still remains one of the leading causes of premature death in the state,” he said.

Gupta said smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

According to a news release from the state DHHR, smoking accounts for more than 480,000 deaths nationally and nearly 4,300 deaths in West Virginia.

To reduce the adult smoking rate, health officials suggset comprehensive clean indoor air regulations, cigarette tax increases and readily available, no-cost tobacco cessation quitline services.

For information about how to stop smoking, the DHHR recommends calling the West Virginia Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QuitNow.

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