THE good news is in: the rate of teen smoking in the state has dropped dramatically. That translates into better adult health for many West Virginians in the years to come and potentially even fewer teen smokers in the future.
The state's Department of Health and Human Resources Division of Tobacco Prevention early this month released its 2013 West Virginia youth tobacco survey. Results show fewer West Virginia teens have ever used tobacco.
In 2000, only 20.6 percent of teens said they had never used tobacco, but the new survey shows the number of non-users rose to 46.1 percent, an increase in non users of 124 percent, reported Dr. Letitia Tierney of the Bureau of Public Health.
"A 124 percent improvement is fantastic," Tierney told WVMetroNews' Jeff Jenkins. "It means the message is getting out there and kids are listening."
The survey showed 18.6 percent of West Virginia high school students - fewer than 1 in 5 - are smokers, compared to 38.5 percent - more than 1 in 3 - in 2000.
"These are our future parents and they are going to raise their children in smoke-free homes," Tierney said.
Tierney credited the statewide and omnipresent Raze program, where teens talk with teens about smoking.
"They encourage children to rebel against smoking and they call their groups crews - so they are speaking the teens' lingo, which I think helps engage them.
Raze is a campaign funded by the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes and developed by the DHHR, the Department of Education, the American Lung Association of West Virginia and The Manahan Group.
The program's Facebook page says "Raze is tearing down the lies of Big Tobacco and fighting them with all we've got - our passion, our power and our minds."
While Raze and other tobacco prevention programs are working, the national Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids also released a report, this one saying the state of West Virginia is not using enough of its tobacco settlement funds on prevention. Only 3.2 percent of the $165 million settlement is going toward prevention programs, the campaign said.
Maybe, but the Raze program and those involved deserve credit for dramatic reductions in teen smoking. Keep at it to get that percentage of teen smokers to drop to nil.