Nearly 1,000 people from around West Virginia came to the Statehouse Feb. 22 as part of Tobacco Free Day at the Capitol, including students from the Barbour County RAZE program.
The day celebrated the accomplishments of RAZE, West Virginia's teen-led program to fight tobacco use, which announced that surveys now show that 84 percent of the state's teenagers are tobacco-free. This is a marked decline and the result of over a decade of state and local tobacco prevention efforts.
While these numbers are encouraging there is still a great deal to be done, said Chuck Hamsher, policy director for the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free West Virginia.
Nearly 1,000 students including a group from Philip Barbour High School visit the Capitol in support of tobacco-prevention efforts.
"Our tobacco-use numbers are still too high for youth, and our adult use rate of 26.5 percent is one of the highest in the nation," Hamsher said.
The day was coordinated by the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free West Virginia, which currently is urging legislators to not reduce funding for tobacco-prevention efforts as the budget now being considered by the Legislature proposes and to increase the state's low tobacco tax.
West Virginia's tobacco tax ranks 44th in the nation and increasing it by $1 per pack to the national average would result in a 15 percent decline in youth tobacco use and 18,600 fewer adult tobacco users.