CHARLESTON, W. Va. – The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network is marking the American Cancer Society’s 45th annual Great American Smokeout happening today by calling on state lawmakers to protect the health of our youth, residents with lower incomes, LGBTQ+ communities and communities of color by passing strong tobacco control legislation that overcomes Big Tobacco’s manipulative tactics that target these community members. As our battle with COVID-19 continues, we must do everything in our power to keep all our communities healthy and safe—which means building strong public health infrastructure including comprehensive tobacco control measures.
Big Tobacco has spent decades aggressively marketing flavored tobacco products in order to hook and addict youth, people with lower incomes, LGBTQ+ communities and communities of color. Their targeted marketing strategies have led to disparities in tobacco use, including higher use of tobacco products. The tobacco industry has used menthol for decades to intentionally and aggressively target certain communities for addiction to their deadly products. As a result, Blacks consistently report the highest prevalence of menthol cigarette use.
West Virginia still tops the nation in tobacco use rates, and the lack of comprehensive tobacco control laws and funding on the local and state level are contributing to disparities in tobacco use. Currently, West Virginia has budgeted less than $1 million for the state’s tobacco control programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 27.4 million in funding for a successful program in our state.
Public policy changes can and must serve as the main way to shield against and reverse longstanding inequalities – but it must be done comprehensively and with the well-being of those most affected in mind.
Long after this pandemic passes, people deserve to live full, healthy lives free from the problems of tobacco use. It is past time for West Virginia lawmakers to pass evidence-based strategies proven to reduce tobacco use including a statewide comprehensive smoke-free law, regular and significant tobacco excise tax increases, and adequately funding evidence-based tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Through these initiatives, we can truly start to reduce health disparities and reduce the toll of tobacco on our state for everyone.
About ACS CAN
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org.