BUCKHANNON — Dr. Joseph Reed presented staggering statistics to Upshur County Commissioners on Thursday morning during his proclamation for “Take Down Tobacco Day.” In the state of West Virginia alone, 26% of adults are reportedly tobacco users, according to Dr. Reed. On behalf of the Upshur County Family Resource Network (UCFRN) Tobacco Prevention Coalition, he aims to lower these shocking statistics regarding the use of tobacco products in the state, but more specifically in Upshur County.
In 2017, 14% of high school students nationwide reportedly used tobacco and 26% used tobacco and/or e-cigarettes in a single month. According to the proclamation read by Dr. Reed, “Most tobacco and e-cigarettes contain nicotine which is addicting, contributes to hypertension, lung disease, and other parts of the body adversely.” For most users, Dr. Reed said the annual cost to purchase these products is approximately $2,000.
In 2019, 27% of high school students and 10.5% of middle school students in West Virginia reportedly used e-cigarettes in a short 30-day period. He explained that the use of e-cigarettes is typically in combination with the use of tobacco products. For example, 60% of youth using e-cigs also reportedly smoked tobacco in 2019. Additionally, 88% of smokers reportedly start by age 18 and almost all start by age 26, according to Dr. Reed.
Just a year prior, tobacco companies reportedly spent $9.18 billion on marketing these products. In West Virginia alone, healthcare expenses due to tobacco use cost an estimated $1 billion and a loss of productivity cost them $1.23 billion annually.
Sadly, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing 480,000 individuals annually, according to Dr. Reed. On average, smokers reportedly experience 10 to 14 lost years of life. In Dr. Reed’s professional experience, people often quit smoking due to illness and/or children keeping after them. He explained that it often takes six or seven times trying before successfully quitting and said, “the craving may never go away.”
The Upshur Co. Tobacco Prevention Coalition therefore encourages individuals who are non-smokers or e-cigarette users “to actively encourage and support users to make every effort to reduce and eventually quit, and non-users to not start.” Additionally, they encourage legislators to increase taxes on such products to deter use of them, increase educational efforts specifically geared towards adolescents, and continue maintaining indoor smoking/vaping restrictions enacted by the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department and various other health related entities.
In effort to improve these statistics, Dr. Reed utilizes a WVAFP program called “Tar Wars” in which he personally presents to local 4th and 5th grade students. He urged County Commissioners to support health department rules regarding clean indoor air Thursday morning and also recommended West Virginia legislators to increase the state’s tobacco taxes, in addition to stopping the sale of flavored and menthol products.
Commissioners approved Dr. Reed’s proclamation, declaring April 1 as “Take Down Tobacco Day” in Upshur County and urged all residents to help make Upshur County tobacco free.