MASON COUNTY — A typical scene portrayed to junior high and high school students is one of trying a tobacco product as an attempt to fit in and according to a recent report from the American Lung Association (ALA), youth in rural areas, such as Mason County, are more likely to face a situation like this.
The ALA stated one particular reason why tobacco use is more common in rural areas as to more urban areas is there being fewer laws regarding tobacco use in public places. The ALA also stated that tobacco use is commonly coupled with areas of lower education and income levels, also common in rural areas. It was reported that in West Virginia, 26.8 percent of adults smoke and 51.3 percent live in rural communities.
“Tobacco use is often more socially acceptable in rural areas, making it more likely that kids living in these communities will also start to use tobacco,” said Deb Brown, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic, which includes West Virginia. “Community leaders and residents in our rural areas need to take a stand against the culture of tobacco use as part of life and empower our future generations to have healthy, tobacco-free lives.”
According to Diana Riddle with the Mason County Health Department, the state West Virginia does have the Clean Indoor Air Act in effect, which establishes restrictions where citizens may and may not smoke, in an attempt to decrease the consumption of secondhand smoke.
The ALA also stated one way to reduce some tobacco use is by raising the price of tobacco. Although, it was reported that many rural states have a lower tax on tobacco products. The current tobacco tax for the state of West Virginia was reported to be 55 cents, compared to the current state average cigarette tax which is $1.46 per pack.
It was also reported that the tobacco industry has used several rural images, such as the Marlboro Man, to attract customers in rural areas and also produce ads geared toward younger audiences. It was added that citizens in rural areas often have less exposure to cessation programs to help them stop using tobacco products.
“The rural community clearly requires special attention if we hope to end the epidemic of tobacco use in this country,” said Kimberly Horn, Ed. D., Associate Dean of Research, The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. “We must all work together as neighbors to overcome this health disparity.”
The ALA also offers resources to help those who wish to quit smoking and using tobacco products. A few of the listed resources were as follows:
Freedom From Smoking — This program teaches skills and techniques that have been proven to help hundreds of thousands of adults quit smoking and is available as a group clinic, an online program and a self-help book.
Not-On-Tobacco (N-O-T) — This group program is designed to help 14 to 19 year old smokers end their addiction to nicotine. The curriculum consists of ten 50-minute sessions that typically occur once a week for 10 weeks.
The Lung HelpLine — This program offers one-on-one support from registered nurses and respiratory therapists. Individuals have the opportunity to seek guidance on lung health and find out how to participate in and join the Lung Association smoking cessation programs.
Riddle also discussed some of the local resources available to help not only youth, but all who wish to stop using tobacco products. On a monthly basis, the health department offers free smoking cessation classes, the next one being at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 18. Conducting the class will be Teresa Mills with the Tobacco Prevention Program.
Riddle also added that the health department also has other information and resources available for those who wish to stop smoking and using other tobacco products. To register for the class, contact the health department at 304-675-3050.
For more information on the American Lung Association’s report on rural tobacco use, and the programs listed above or other resources, visit www.lung.org/rural-tobacco-use.