Opinion

Tobacco use among W.Va. teens still high

An editorial from the Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Fifty years after the first U.S. Surgeon General’s report that linked cigarette smoking to potential health problems, tobacco use continues to be a major health issue in West Virginia.

According to statistics from the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids, 18.6 percent of high-school age youth in West Virginia smoke. That’s about one-half a percent higher than the national average.

The number of male high school students who use smokeless or spit tobacco is even higher at 25.5 percent. That number is nearly double the national average.

Not surprisingly, the percentage of state adults who smoke (28.2 percent) is significantly higher than the national average of 19 percent.

Granted, much like alcohol, cigarettes and other tobacco products are available to adult consumers, who are deemed able to demonstrate restraint and do what is best for them.

We take no issue with that.

However, we are amazed at the number of teens who use tobacco products since West Virginia has laws on the books that forbid the sale of those products to those under 18 years of age.

Further, West Virginia Code calls for the prosecution of any adult who purchases tobacco products for an underage minor. And it’s also illegal for those under 18 to possess any tobacco product.

But while underage drinking has rightfully been targeted for enforcement, we question how much law enforcement and health officials address the illegal purchase, possession and use of tobacco among teens…

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