CHARLESTON, W.Va. — While West Virginia is picking up points for passage of palliative care legislation in an annual health progress report, the Mountain State continues to fall short on tobacco control efforts.

On Thursday, “How Do You Measure Up? A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality” was released.

“If we were being graded, we got a pretty solid ‘F’ because we only go 33 percent right,” said Rosemary Thomas from Elkins, state lead ambassador in West Virginia for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

“We’re better than that as a state.”

Each year, the report measures the following nine specific policy areas state legislatures can address or have addressed to better fight cancer:

– access to Medicaid,
– breast and cervical cancer early detection,
– access to palliative care,
– pain policy,
– cigarette tax rates,
– smoke-free laws,
– tobacco prevention funding,
– Medicaid coverage of tobacco cessation,
– indoor tanning device restrictions.

West Virginia was deemed to be “doing well,” reflecting adoption of evidence-based policies and best practices, in access to Medicaid, access to palliative care and indoor tanning device restrictions.

Areas categorized as “falling short” were breast and cervical cancer early detection and smoke-free laws.

“I do believe that we’re at a precipice in our existence here that we need legislation to help people,” Thomas said. “We know that we have people starting tobacco use very, very early.”

Tobacco prevention funding was labeled as “no funding” as determined by the study.

Those with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network were calling for restoration of state funding for tobacco prevention and cessation and additions to state tobacco taxes.

The West Virginia Division of Tobacco Prevention lost funding in 2017.

Nearly 33 percent of cancer deaths in West Virginia can be attributed to tobacco, according to ACS CAN officials, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society.

“I think start early and also widespread support for people of all ages,” Thomas said of the tobacco prevention needs in the Mountain State.

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