Coalition pushes legislature to use Rescue Act Funds to help smokers quit

Says Action is a MUST if Tobacco Tax Increase is Passed

Release from the Coalition for Tobacco-Free West Virginia:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A statewide public health coalition today said state leaders MUST provide funding to help people who smoke quit especially if the legislature passes a $1 per pack increase in the cigarette tax. The Coalition for Tobacco Free West Virginia (CTFWV) called on lawmakers to use American Rescue Act (ARPA) funds to provide cessation resources as the state’s tobacco prevention program is significantly underfunded and people who smoke who want to quit because of the tax, need a place to turn for help. New resources could also help address the skyrocketing youth vaping rates.

CTFWV is a statewide coalition made up of private citizens and representing multiple health care organizations, businesses, and schools. It has urged lawmakers to significantly increase the tobacco tax as part of a three-pronged approach for reducing tobacco use that also include ensuring smoke-free workplace protections and providing adequate funding for prevention and cessation programs.

The coalition today said, while hefty increases in tobacco taxes are a good tool for preventing kids from smoking and encouraging people who smoke to quit, it is unconscionable to do so without providing people with the resources they need to help do it.

“The tobacco prevention program only receives $445,000. This has not been enough to tackle the 40.6% tobacco use rate by youths, and it certainly is not enough to help people who will want to quit because of the tax increase. Almost a quarter of adults in West Virginia smoke. We need to ensure they have resources to help them get off this addictive product, not just wish them luck,” said coalition chair Juliana Frederick-Curry.

Frederick-Curry said the program is woefully underfunded compared to the $27.4 million that is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control for effective prevention and cessation funding. She added that youth prevention is also critical given that one in three West Virginian teens vape.

The American Rescue Plan Act will provide West Virginia with $1.6 billion in state relief. The coalition said it makes perfect sense to use a portion of this to address tobacco use in the state.

ARPA was intended to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including the public health and economic impacts. Smoking increases the likelihood of becoming severely ill from the link between tobacco usage and COVID-19. 

Some states are seeing an increase in tobacco use because of the pandemic. A recent study by the Penn State College of Medicine found that nearly a third of smokers reported increased use due to stress, increased free time and boredom.

Frederick-Curry noted that treating smoking-caused diseases already costs each West Virginia taxpayer $1,212 per household in state and federal tax burden annually, noting that this burden will only increase with more pandemic-caused tobacco use, and if lawmakers do not provide funding for tobacco cessation and prevention.

For more info, go to: http://www.wvtobaccofree.com

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