Hundreds of teens from around the state gathered at the West Virginia capitol to celebrate a milestone and pledge to continue their work.
Members of the anti-tobacco movement RAZE spread their message to lawmakers on Friday and they have some good news. They say 84 percent of West Virginia middle and high school students do not use tobacco products. That’s a marked increase from just 10 years ago.
But members say they still have a long way to go to reduce that number even further. That’s why they spent the day lobbying their local lawmakers to promote healthy lifestyle legislation and in some cases, urging the legislators themselves to give up their tobacco habits.
RAZE members were able to meet groups from other schools and counties, share ideas and bring attention to the dangers of tobacco use.
It’s estimated that 46,000 West Virginia teens, now under the age of 18, will die a premature death because of tobacco. Many of them are tobacco users, others are impacted by second-hand smoke.
Students from Robert L. Brand Middle School in Lewis County had one of the most arresting displays of the day set up in the capitol rotunda.
They had two pig hearts side by side. One was tobacco free and pink. The other was diseased by tobacco use and black. The students say it’s a wake up call for teens and adults when they see the difference.
West Virginia has the highest rate of adult smokers in the country at 26.5 percent according to the state Division of Tobacco Prevention. RAZE members say if they can reach out to teens before they light up, chances are they’ll never start smoking in the first place.