West Virginia’s Legislature Chose Big Tobacco Over West Virginians
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network is disappointed that lawmakers chose Big Tobacco over the health of West Virginians in the state budget.
Statement from American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Government Relations Director Doug Hogan
CHARLESTON, W. Va. – “The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network is disappointed that lawmakers chose Big Tobacco over the health of West Virginians in the state budget. West Virginia receives over $232.4 million in tobacco revenue annually from tobacco settlement payments and taxes combined, and the state is sitting on a budget surplus, yet the legislature chose not to increase their investment of $445,000 in the tobacco prevention and cessation program in the state’s operating budget.
Yesterday, West Virginia lawmakers failed to prioritize reducing the state’s high tobacco burden at a time when more than 4 in 10 West Virginia high school students are using tobacco products. Increased funding for a fact-based tobacco control program is needed to counteract the $107.9 million per year that tobacco companies are spending to market their deadly and addictive products in West Virginia. As Big Tobacco has been working hard to addict future generations with e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, the need for funding for tobacco prevention programs has never been greater.
Increasing funding to $16.5 million in fact-based tobacco control programs—the funding level recommended by the West Virginia Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Task Force—would have helped prevent kids from starting to use tobacco and helped people already addicted quit. Furthermore, $16.5 million annually would have reduced youth smoking by 15.2%, prevented 3,900 kids from growing up to be adults who smoke and saved the state $62.4 million in future health care expenditures.
“In the most recent Broken Promises report, West Virginia ranked 50th when it comes to properly funding the state’s tobacco control programs. The lack of action to reduce tobacco use by the West Virginia legislature has had a devastating impact on the health and financial well-being of our state. West Virginia has the country’s highest high school and adult tobacco use rates. Smoking costs our state $1.17 billion in direct health care costs annually, including $298.1 million in Medicaid costs. Furthermore, tobacco use is our state’s leading cause of preventable death, killing 4,300 West Virginia residents yearly. Lawmakers missed an opportunity to reduce health care costs, protect kids and save lives by failing to increase funding for tobacco control programs in the state budget. West Virginia can and must do better.”
About ACS CAN
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) makes cancer a top priority for policymakers at every level of government. ACS CAN empowers volunteers across the country to make their voices heard to influence evidence-based public policy change that improves the lives of people with cancer and their families. We believe everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer. Since 2001, as the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN has successfully advocated for billions of dollars in cancer research funding, expanded access to quality affordable health care, and advanced proven tobacco control measures. We’re more determined than ever to stand together with our volunteers to end cancer as we know it, for everyone. Join the fight by visiting www.fightcancer.org.