Task Force Calls for State Funding to Reduce WV Tobacco Use

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – State lawmakers may soon consider a request for funding to reduce tobacco use across West Virginia.

Dr Susan Morgan

The smoking prevention and cessation working group presented its final report to the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability on Sunday.

Dr Susan Morgan, who led the presentation on behalf of the task force, said they recommended that $ 16.5 million per year be taken out of interest from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

“The $ 16.5 million in funding coupled with policy recommendations and lowering evidence-based treatment barriers described in this paper is expected to have a significant impact on smoking rates in West Virginia,” said Morgan told lawmakers.

Morgan called smoking a “chronic disease” and “should be treated as such.” She said that’s why they’re asking $ 1.6 million for the Stop Line for Smoking Cessation in West Virginia.

“In a rural state like West Virginia, providing cessation services online and over the phone is essential,” Morgan said. “The task force recommends more data collection, periodic assessments and public reporting components at the stop line. “

The Quitline heard from over 4,500 callers from 2018 to 2020 who smoked two to five packs of cigarettes per day. Morgan said heavy smokers need more than a nicotine patch to overcome addiction.

“Two patches may work for a smoker of two packs a day, but not for those who use three, four or even five packs of cigarettes a day, hence the importance of tobacco treatment specialists,” he said. she declared.

The task force also called for an extension of the stop line, adding tobacco treatment clinics in different parts of the state to help create better access.

“This will help the stop line for both the patient or the individual get adequate levels of medication and counseling simultaneously at a time when they are ready to quit,” Morgan said.

About $ 99,000 per year is expected to be spent on training 150 health care providers for each of the next five years to become certified tobacco treatment specialists, the task force wrote.

In addition, the task force is requesting $ 964,000 to place 14 certified tobacco treatment training specialists in areas served by 13 behavioral health clinics statewide. They also want to offer a virtual quit program.

Morgan is a clinical assistant professor at the WVU School of Dentistry and served as vice chair of the working group.

The group formed in 2020 following the passage of HB 4494. Members said they wanted the working group to stay in place for another year, so they could review the implementation of their recommendations.

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