Young people get smoking message

West Virginia residents are tired of being told, year after year, they are among the unhealthiest folks in the country. The factors used in creating such reports are often politically motivated and incomplete indicators of health.

One measure often cited, however, is smoking. West Virginians would be hard pressed to argue about that.

That may be changing, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, which says the number of Mountain State residents who smoke fell from 28.6 percent in 2011 to 24.8 percent in 2016.

Yes, there are still nearly one-fourth of adults smoking in the state, but the numbers are moving in the right direction for a change. What is responsible for the improvement?

DHHR officials felt obligated to mention, in their news release, that cigarette tax increases, indoor air quality regulations, no-cost tobacco quitline service and the taxpayer-funded RAZE WV (you know, government) may have helped reduce the rate of smoking.

But State Health Officer Dr. Rahul Gupta had a different take:

“This decline in the number of adults who smoke is the first evidence that never-smoking middle and high school students who are aging into the adult population are finally making an impact on the larger adult population,” said Gupta, who is also commissioner of the DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health.

Imagine that. Giving credit to someone other than government. Parents, teachers and other trusted adults have been talking to youngsters about the dangers of smoking and encouraging the kind of healthy peer pressure that keeps kids from giving it a try in the first place.

That is creating upcoming generations of young people who will not have to worry about cigarette taxes and indoor air quality regulations.

Keep at it, folks. If Gupta is right, those numbers should drop a little each year, as more young people get the message.

Now, what will lawmakers do when their cigarette tax revenue goes up in smoke?