West Virginia

Recent updates! – Tobacco 21 Progress – Statewide Bill Tracker

2/17/2017 – SB37 reported do pass from Senate Health and Human Services Committee; referred to Senate Finance Committee.
2/10/2017 – Delegate Harry Rowe and 3 co-sponsors introduce House Bill 2331. The bill would raise the minimum legal sales age of all tobacco products from 18 to 21; referred to House Health and Human Services Committee, then House Judiciary Committee.
2/8/2017 – Senator Ron Stollings and 2 co-sponsors introduce Senate Bill 37. The bill would raise the minimum legal sales age of all tobacco products from 18 to 21; referred to Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
1/13/2016 – Senator Ron Stollings introduced Tobacco 21 bill, Senate Bill 248

West Virginia has an above average rate of both high school smoking and the highest rate of adult smoking in the country. An estimated 47,000 children now under the age of 18 will eventually die early due to smoking, with 1,300 children becoming daily smokers each year. The result is an annual health care cost of $1 billion that is directly caused by smoking, and other $1.23 billion in lost productivity.

The state spends only 14.9% of the CDC recommended amount on tobacco prevention, but has recently increased their cigarette tax from being one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation to $1.30. Fortunately there is a possibility of enacting Tobacco 21 at the state level, as Democratic Senator Ron Stollings has introduced Senate Bill 37 in 2017, which awaits a decision in the Senate Finance Committee.

There is no preemption language present in state law preventing localities from raising the Minimum Legal Sales Age (MLSA) to 21. Local governments are free to enact ordinances to better protect their kids from addiction. It has been our experience that the most powerful incentive for the state legislature to act is the initiative of local citizens and governmental leaders. Statewide, California and Hawaii’s laws both began at the local level where powerful tobacco industry lobbyists have little sway. We encourage you to talk to your local city council person, county council member or board of health leader. Local champions have largely driven this movement in non-preempted states. Your voice is more influential than you think. Constituents are an impetus for change at the community and statewide levels. Garner interest around Tobacco 21 at the local and state level by communicating with your local legislators through phone calls, emails, and testimony at local government meetings.

For more information, you may contact:

Rob Crane, MD
Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation

Amy Barkley
Director, Tobacco States and Mid-Atlantic
Tobacco Free Kids

or visit our sources:

Tobacco Free Kids West Virginia: “The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its deadly toll in the United States and around the world. Our vision: A future free of the death and disease caused by tobacco.”

American Lung Association State Report Card: “The ALA ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report tracks progress on key tobacco control policies at the state and federal levels, and assigns grades based on tobacco control laws and regulations in effect as of January 2, 2014.”

SLATI State Information West Virginia: “SLATI (State Legislated Actions on Tobacco Issues) is an extensively researched and invaluable source of information on tobacco control laws and policy, and is the only up-to-date and comprehensive summary of state tobacco control laws.”

The Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation and the Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids support these four principles for Tobacco 21 ordinances:

1) Include all tobacco and nicotine products, specifically e-cigarettes. The only exceptions would be FDA recognized nicotine replacement products (gum, patch, etc.) intended for cessation.
2) Include significant enforcement provisions against illegal sales as research shows that consistent enforcement is of critical importance.
3) Not include any pre-emption against local authority in more stringent regulation of tobacco or other nicotine product sales, secondhand smoke, or e-cigarette vapor.
4) Ideally not include possession, usage, or purchase (PUP) penalties that result in criminal records, and instead place the onus on the purveyors of these addictive products.

We welcome your comments and suggestions: Contact Us