CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Cancer advocates from around the state gathered at the state capitol for a day to urge lawmakers to prioritize creating more legislation to help bring an end to cancer-related suffering and death. Their particular area of focus was on tobacco prevention and cessation in West Virginia, inquiring lawmakers reserve over $16 million for awareness and education regarding that issue.
Representatives with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network were set up outside of the House of Delegates chamber Monday at the capitol as part of Cancer Action Day.
ACS-CAN Director for West Virginia, Doug Hogan said it’s a day to meet delegates and state senators and advocate for more policies around known cancer-causing products and other issues linked to the disease that affects an estimated 12,890 West Virginians.
Hogan said one policy they have moving through the legislature right now that seems very promising will have $5 million going toward putting an end to cancer-causing tobacco and smoking in the state.
“I think at this point one of the things we’re very excited about is House Bill 4983, which Delegate Hardy is the lead sponsor on that, and what it does is it dedicates a portion of funding specifically to tobacco prevention and cessation,” Hogan said.
He said the bill would help with these efforts as it would implement more fact-based and educational programming to prevent children from ever trying their first cigarette, vape, or e-cig, as well as provide more resources for adults to help them quit smoking.
Hogan said it’s a good first step in their larger plan to reduce the toll of tobacco on West Virginia. Monday they asked lawmakers for a $16.5 million investment in order to achieve just that.
As West Virginia invests about the lowest in any state regarding tobacco prevention and cessation efforts with the highest usage rates among both kids and adults, Hogan said this discrepancy is no coincidence, and the bill would help shed some light on the continued education that needs to happen first before the issue can be resolved.
“We want to focus on prevention, how can we keep kids from experimenting, how can we make sure they don’t grow up into adults who are addicted to these deadly nicotine products, and so that’s what the focus is with our volunteers as they meet with their legislators,” said Hogan.
American Cancer Society volunteer Patty Davis of Romney, West Virginia, said continuing to create policies on cancer in the state is important.
In addition to ACS, Davis said her cancer advocating efforts have taken her to the Mountains of Hope Cancer Coalition that’s part of WVU’s Cancer Institute, as well as to the nation’s capitol where she advocated alongside former professional cyclist and cancer survivor, Lance Armstrong.
As a breast cancer survivor, Davis said she is grateful of where her journey has led her, and she said she’s happy to continue to be an advocate of cancer-related policies.
“I feel blessed from the top of my head to my toes to be involved in any activities that will bring awareness to people out there that are afraid,” she said. “There are so many people that think the word cancer means death, it does not always mean death.”