Extinguishing the Tobacco Epidemic in West Virginia
Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disability in the United States, despite a significant decline in the number of people who smoke. Over 16 million Americans have at least one disease caused by smoking. This amounts to $170 billion in direct medical costs that could be saved every year if we could prevent youth from starting to smoke and help every person who smokes to quit.
In 2017, 26.6% of West Virginia high school youth reported currently using any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes. Among West Virginia high school youth, 14.4% reported currently smoking cigarettes.
Was received from CDC for tobacco prevention and control activities in FY 2019
There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. It causes stroke, lung cancer, and coronary heart disease in adults. West Virginia has a tradition of adopting comprehensive local smoke-free policies throughout the state. Currently, over 60% of the state is protected by comprehensive county or city ordinances that prohibit smoking in all indoor areas of workplaces, restaurants, and bars. As more communities and counties adopt smoke-free laws, West Virginia has continued to inform efforts that protect residents from exposure to secondhand smoke. Upon request, the state provides research, data and analysis, and scientific consultation to communities, multiunit housing operators, hospitals, businesses, and colleges and universities that want to protect residents from secondhand smoke. For example, 5 colleges and universities prohibit tobacco use in buildings and on campus grounds in West Virginia, including all 3 campuses of Fairmont State University. West Virginia Wesleyan College was the last college to adopt a tobacco-free campus policy in January 2017.
West Virginia is one of 50 states plus DC that receives funding and technical support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support comprehensive tobacco control efforts and quitlines. The Office on Smoking and Health (OSH) is the lead federal agency for comprehensive tobacco prevention and control. For decades, OSH has led public health efforts to prevent young people from using tobacco and to help all tobacco users to quit.
Despite significant progress, tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the US. The good news is that 7 out of 10 smokers want to quit smoking. That is why since 2012 CDC has been educating the public about the consequences of smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke and encouraging smokers to quit through a federally funded, national tobacco education campaign, Tips From Former Smokers®. The campaign features former smokers suffering from the real consequences of smoking.
The Tips® campaign connects smokers with resources to help them quit, including a quitline number (1-800-QUIT-NOW) which routes callers to their state quitline. The West Virginia quitline provides free cessation services, including counseling and medication. These services are effective in improving health outcomes and reducing healthcare costs.
“I was thinking about relapsing today and the new commercials came on. It changed my mind real fast. You don’t understand the power of these commercials until you have made the decision to quit. Terrie Hall makes me cry every time . . . that could easily be me.”
–Justin: January 2016
Incoming calls to the West Virginia state quitline increased by an average 27% during the 2019 Tips® campaign. The West Virginia state quitline received a total of 12,650 calls from April 23rd – October 8th during the 2019 Tips® campaign.
Tobacco prevention and control activities are a public health “best buy.” Evidence-based, statewide tobacco control programs that are comprehensive, sustained, and accountable have been shown to reduce the number of people who smoke, as well as tobacco-related diseases and deaths. For every dollar spent on tobacco prevention, states can reduce tobacco-related health care expenditures and hospitalizations by up to $55. The longer and more states invest, the larger the reductions in youth and adult smoking. A comprehensive statewide tobacco control program includes efforts to: