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At Least Save New Generation

We have known for decades that tobacco use can lead to all sorts of health risks, ranging from lung cancer to heart disease. Yet more than one-fourth of adult West Virginians still smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is the highest percentage in the nation.

State officials are not doing enough to curb tobacco use and prevent young people from taking up the habit, the American Lung Association concluded in a recent report. In grading our state on various tobacco-related factors, the ALA handed out nothing but D and F marks.

We received an F for funding of tobacco prevention and cessation programs, an F on tobacco taxes and an F on making 21 the minimum age for purchase of tobacco products. That last rating is irrelevant, in view of a new federal law pegging the purchase age at 21 or above.

As has been usual during recent years, state legislators have before them a number of tobacco-related bills. Incredibly, one would reduce the tax on cigarettes to 30 cents a pack. It is $1.20 under current law.

While we are not convinced higher prices dissuade people — including teens — from purchasing tobacco products, proceeds can be used for effective prevention and cessation initiatives.

Unfortunately, West Virginia seems to use much of the proceeds from such taxes, and from a lawsuit settlement a number of years ago, to bolster state government’s general revenue fund. Given the current budget straits in which state officials find themselves, that is unlikely to change.

It should. Clearly, we need to do better, even as a new challenge — e-cigarettes — has become a matter of concern. Far too many young people, even down into middle school, believe incorrectly that “vaping” is not detrimental to health.

We Mountain State residents are notorious for unhealthy habits. We eat too much of the wrong kind of food. We exercise too infrequently. Too many of us use tobacco in its various forms.

Again, we need to do better — if not for adults who continue to smoke, for a younger generation that need never get hooked on nicotine.

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