Virginia’s efforts to prevent death and disease from smoking got a grade of F from the American Lung Association, in a review of states’ tobacco control policies.
The association said that although tobacco sales generate some $416 million in state revenue, Virginia’s spending on tobacco control programs of $10.1 million is just 11% of what the federal Centers for Disease Control recommend.
The cost of health care for smoking-related illnesses in Virginia exceeds $3 billion, the association said.
In addition to a failing grade for tobacco control funding, the lung association said Virginia posted Fs for laws to limit secondhand smoke exposure, access to smoking cessation help and its low cigarette taxes. Virginia also earned an F for not having any measure to limit flavored tobacco products.
The 14% of Virginia adults who smoke is the same as the national average, but the 22.5% of high school students who use tobacco products — primarily vaping devices — is higher than the national level.
“The surge in youth vaping combined with the fact that smoking increases the chance of severe COVID-19 symptoms, make it more important than ever for Virginia” to enact proven measures to reduce tobacco use,” said Aleks Casper, the lung association’s director of advocacy.
The association said Virginia should raise its cigarette tax by at least $1 a pack from the current 60 cents and called for licensing tobacco retailers.
“A retail licensing plan should include e-cigarette retailers, annual renewal, graduated penalties for violations with suspension and revocation provisions and required retailer education,” Casper said.
Dave Ress, 757-247-4535, email@example.com