(01/06/2005)
If you're concerned about millions of tobacco settlement dollars and tobacco taxes not going toward public health, you may have a point.

West Virginia gets low marks on controlling tobacco use, according to the American Lung Association.

The state got an "F" for its low spending on smoking prevention, smoke-free air laws and youth access to tobacco.

West Virginia, like most states, has been using tobacco generated money to close budget gaps.

The association also gave the state a "D" for its 55-cent cigarette tax, saying it was not enough.

West Virginia lawmakers raised the cigarette tax from 17 cents to 55 cents per pack in 2003.

It is still 29 cents below the national average and ranks 32nd in the country.

The state appropriated only half of the $14 million the tax raised toward health, as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

West Virginia has ranked in the top five states nationwide for smoking rates among youth, but the smoking rate is improving.

The American Lung report also gave the federal government three failing grades and a "D" for its tobacco control policies.

The feds still support tobacco farmers and have helped the tobacco industry globalize.

Forty-nine of the state's 55 counties have some type of smoking ban.

The Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department is moving toward banning smoking in "public places" like restaurants, a move that some oppose based upon government control of private places.

There are current bans on all public owned and operated properties.

A public hearing for Calhoun and Roane County is scheduled for Monday evening in Arnoldsburg.

Some counties have a total ban on "public places" which now includes all businesses.

To read the American Lung Association's report, go to www.lungusa.org


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