Calhoun County is among the highest counties in WV with smoking related deaths, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services.

The county is ranked eleventh in the state, with Wirt County being number one and Clay County number six with deaths attributed to smoking. At least 20% of all residents are dying of smoking related deaths.

West Virginia is the second worst in the nation related to smoking deaths.

Andrew Arthur, a CHS student and a member of the Student Coalition Against Tobacco, says he is often confused when smokers and business owners talk about their rights.

"What we're talking about is health - life and death," he said. "We're talking about trying to protect young people from second hand smoke and from becoming addicted." He hopes the Clean Indoor Air Act is passed in every WV county.

Arthur's father, a heavy smoker, died of lung cancer.

SCAT member Jacob Richards says he believes many Calhoun kids have switched to smokeless tobacco, believing it is less harmful. Another reason is they are less likely to get caught, as opposed to smoking.

"I think there is some decrease in tobacco use since 2002," said Richards.

In 2002, Calhoun school board members heard a report on smoking, snuff rubbing and chewing at Calhoun Middle and High School.

The report seemed startling at the time.

It said nearly half of all Calhoun High School students reported smoking during the past year.

The data was collected in a survey conducted in May, 2002, with the information obtained from students, their identities remaining confidential.

The report said 17.6% of Calhoun Middle students and 12.9% of Calhoun High students reported they began before ten years of age.

It said 35.6% of all 6th to 8th grade Middle Schools students and 48.7% of all Calhoun High students have smoked within the past year.

Of students who reported smoking sometime during the year, 21.9% of Middle School students and 40.6% Calhoun High students smoked before and after school. 11.3% Middle School students and 17.2% Calhoun High students smoke weeknights. 20.6% Calhoun Middle students and 24.7% reported smoking on weekends.

Of those surveyed, 38.4% Calhoun Middle and 54.7% Calhoun High students said it is very easy to get cigarettes.

Of those surveyed, 36.4% Middle School and 51.5% Calhoun High students report it is very easy to get smokeless tobacco, snuff or chewing tobacco.

Other counties in the region, related to smoking deaths (Worst 1-Best 55)over 35 deaths:

Wirt 1

Clay 6

Calhoun 11

Braxton 17

Roane 23

Gilmer 33

Ritchie 35

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