Dr. Ayne Amjad, commissioner of the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, and state health officer, recommends a $16.7 million budget for the governor’s Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Task Force. That is $10 million less than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.
The CDC ranked West Virginia 53rd in the country for smoking rates. According to the CDC, almost 24 percent of adults use tobacco in West Virginia, compared to the national average of 14 percent. According to the task force, West Virginia loses $1 billion annually in health care costs due to smoking, and a loss of $1.2 billion worth of production.
The task force was created through House Bill 4494 in 2020 with a budget just under $500,000. Its purpose was to collect data on tobacco use in West Virginia and develop advertising and programs to help with preventing tobacco use and assisting with cessation, or quitting, tobacco. These programs include the toll free Quitline, which received around 10,000 callers last year.
At the June legislative interim meeting of the Join Standing Committee on Health, Del. Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, asked Amjad why the task force didn’t go with the CDC recommendation.
“To speak bluntly,” Amjad said. “We didn’t think proposing a $27 million budget would be looked as favorably upon as if we could cut it down to $16 million looking at the individual tasks.”