Report: W.Va. gets failing grades on controlling tobacco use

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia got failing grades on tobacco control from the American Lung Association, which reported Wednesday that funding for prevention programs has declined and an attempt to increase tobacco taxes was unsuccessful.

The report gave the state F's for tobacco prevention and control program funding, access to cessation services and tobacco taxes, and a D for smoke-free air.

"Tobacco use in any form is one of the biggest threats to public health in West Virginia, claiming more than 3,821 lives each year," Deborah Brown, CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic, said in a news release. "Tobacco use continues to have a substantial negative effect on the health of West Virginia citizens and the economy of the state. We must act now to end this epidemic."

West Virginia spends 25 percent of the funding level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for tobacco prevention and cessation. State funding for these programs fell from $6.5 million in fiscal 2012 to about $4.8 million fiscal 2015, according the lung association's "State of Tobacco Control" report.

Private insurers operating in West Virginia are not required to provide tobacco cessation services. The state's Medicaid program limits the duration of these services and annual limits on attempts to quit. The Medicaid program also requires counseling to obtain medications, the report said.

West Virginia has made progress in reducing exposure to secondhand smoke, the report said. All 55 counties have secondhand smoke regulations and 22 prohibit smoking in most public places and workplaces, including bars and restaurants.

The report recommended that the state increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation and raise taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products. It also recommended passing laws or regulations to increase the number of residents protected from secondhand smoke.

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