CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The American Lung Association is “concerned” about the next generation of West Virginia following a report released last week by the state Department of Health and Human Resources on e-cigarette use among youth.
The report showed the state’s youth use of e-cigs has jumped in the past two years to a 35.7 percent usage rate, more than one-in-three.
“The American Lung Association is very concerned that we are at risk of losing another generation to tobacco-caused diseases as the result of e-cigarettes,” Sarah Lawver, American Lung Association (ALA) advocacy director told MetroNews.
According to the ALA, West Virginia leads the nation in adult smoking rates at 25.2 percent and high school smoking rates at 10.3 percent. State Health Officer Dr. Cathy Slemp told MetroNews previously that the new youth numbers release rose 150 percent in the past two years.
Lawver said the ALA believes there are several proven policies to decrease tobacco use that the legislature and state officials should act on.
One is the increase in tobacco and prevention control funding. According to Lawver, West Virginia allocated $500,000 toward such programs last year, but the Center for Disease Control says best practices for the state would be to spend $24.4 million.
Lawver said for every dollar spent on prevention in a state, the state is saving $55.
“By investing in these programs, they’ll be able to gain some of that loss both in the 4,200 West Virginians who lose their lives every year due to smoking-related death and due to the healthcare costs that are associated with smoking,” she said.
Lawver said a second policy would be to change the tobacco taxes. She said e-cigs are not taxed in a model way
She is hoping that more can be done on a state level in this legislative session.
“This e-cigarette epidemic has provided the momentum and the need to finally implement strong policies,” Lawver said. “We are looking forward to working with our partners at the state level and our partners at the legislature.”