Taxing smokeless tobacco to protect kids a good idea
West Virginia's legislative leaders have all but ruled out any tax increases in the 2001 legislative session, but that won't stop Mary Pearl Compton, who chairs the House Health and Human Resources Committee. Armed with a new study that shows children as young as fifth graders are using smokeless tobacco on a regular basis, Compton is determined to tax what she can't outlaw.
The study, done by Lynne Gobel of the Marshall University School of Medicine, found that while 90 percent of those young people who don't use smokeless tobacco know it's a health threat, only 75 of those who use it are aware that it's dangerous.
In addition, the study found that 7 percent of all children in the fifth grade used smokeless tobacco daily or monthly. For eighth graders, the percentage was 22 percent; for 11th graders, 32 percent. Ten percent of the students surveyed reported trying snuff or chewing tobacco as early as the first or second grade.