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West Virginia’s gets overall ‘F’ grade in latest State of Tobacco Control report

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia earns no grades above a “D” in this year’s “State of Tobacco Control” report now out from the American Lung Association, an annual measure of efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

The report gives West Virginia a “D” for its strength of smokefree workplace laws which was mostly attributed to the large percentage of the state’s population covered under local regulations.

All the other state grades were “F” grades for measures like funding for state tobacco prevention programs, level of state tobacco taxes, coverage and access to services to quit tobacco and for ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products.

The last category was a new one.

Otherwise, the grades were unchanged from 2020 and West Virginia’s overall grade was an “F.”

For 2021, six states received all “F” grades.

“While we’re not the worst, we definitely could do better,” said Molly Pisciottano, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

The release of the report, in its 19th year, came two weeks ahead of the start of the 2021 Regular Legislative Session in West Virginia.

Lung health, Pisciottano said, was especially important during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic alongside, what she called, the youth vaping epidemic. American Lung Association research has found one in three high school students in West Virginia vape.

“This report provides a road map for state and federal governments to pass proven policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” Pisciottano said.

Her takeaways included needs for increased tobacco taxes and preservations of local control of smokefree air laws extending to e-cigarette usage.

The tax rate for a pack of cigarettes in West Virginia was $1.20.

Additionally, she said lawmakers needed to fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs at the recommended level from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, $27 million.

The current level is six percent of that, Pisciottano said.

Among West Virginia counties, reviews of local tobacco regulation strengths resulted in 30 counties earning “A” grades, 13 counties earning “B” grades, seven counties earning “C” grades, three counties earning “D” grades and two counties earning “F” grades.

The counties with “F” grades were Gilmer County and Putnam County.

Nationwide, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease with larger effects on certain populations, like people with low incomes and people of color, according to the American Lung Association.

On the federal level, the 2021 “State of Tobacco Control” report gave the federal government “D” grades for federal government regulation of tobacco products and federal coverage of quit smoking treatments and an “F” grade for level of federal tobacco taxes.

The federal government earned “A” grades for federal mass media campaigns to prevent and reduce tobacco use and for the federal minimum age of sale for tobacco products at 21.

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