Opinion

West Virginia must do better on tobacco use

An editorial from the Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Nationwide, one out of five adults would respond “yes” to the question of whether or not they smoked cigarettes.

According to a Gallup poll released this week, one out of every three West Virginians would respond “yes” to that question.

In fact, according to research collected by analysts through all of 2013, the state of West Virginia ranks as the state with the second highest in percentage of smokers — 29.9 percent, topped only by Kentucky’s 30.2 percent. Rounding out the top three is Mississippi, with 27 percent of an adult smoking population.

The worst part is that since 2008, the first year that Gallup started collecting information about smoking, the six states with the highest smoking population have not changed significantly, though the national percentage feel from 21.1 to 19.7.

We have got to do better.

When looking at the data collected, Gallup indicates that the 12.2 percent smoking population in the state of Utah, the lowest in the nation, largely has to do with the Mormon population of that state and the stigma associated with smoking for members of that religion.

The information also suggests that states with smoking bans in the workplace, bars and restaurants typically have smaller percentages of smokers. In fact, nine out of the 10 states with the lowest percentage of smokers have outright bans in all three environments.

There are no statewide bans in Kentucky, West Virginia and Mississippi. Any limitations are handled on a county-by-county basis by health departments in West Virginia…

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