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Tobacco Remains An Issue in W.Va.

West Virginians are familiar with the ravages of the substance abuse epidemic in our state, but too many think of the substances in question as only opioids and methamphetamines.

Meanwhile another substance has been killing Mountain State residents for generations, and still takes an enormous toll — tobacco.

According to the American Lung Association’s State of Lung Cancer 2021, West Virginia ranks 50th out of 51 (including the District of Columbia) for new lung cancer cases and high smoking rates. Only Kentucky is worse.

While the national average for new lung cancer cases is 57 per 100,000, West Virginia reports 79 new cases per 100,000 each year.

Meanwhile, our state ranks only 40th for lung cancer survival rates.

Tobacco products — yes, even vaping — are among the leading causes of lung cancer. They are also linked to other cancers and diseases.

“We can reduce tobacco use and to help with that is to increase tobacco taxes, but also in order to prevent more lung cancer deaths, we can help smokers quit,” said Molly Pisciottano, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in the West Virginia and Pennsylvania region.

Even without increased taxes, tobacco use is an expensive habit — a drain on finances and physical health.

Yet West Virginia has the highest adult smoking rate in the nation, at more than 25%.

It’s expensive, it’s killing us — and is just one more thing that puts us at a disadvantage in terms of healthy, vibrant communities. Policymakers and educators have a challenge on their hands in helping the Mountain State kick the habit, but they must put in the work. It’s a matter of life and death.

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