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State Board Supports Excise Tax on Smokeless Tobacco; Opposes Relaxing Education Requirements for Home School Providers

March 09, 2001

The West Virginia Board of Education agreed yesterday to oppose a portion of House Bill 2595 that would remove the requirement that persons home schooling their children have "formal education at least four years higher than the most academically advanced child for whom the instruction will be provided."  

State Board Member Sandra Chapman of Wheeling criticized the law saying that parents who home school their children should have the benefit of advanced schooling in order to provide a sound education to their children.  

Currently, West Virginia is one of only two states that require persons home schooling children to have the four years of formal education beyond the youngsters they teach.  

"While many home school proponents believe this provision is unfair, the State Board views this as a positive standard for ensuring all West Virginia children have qualified instructors offering a rigorous, challenging curriculum," added Chapman.  

"Home school laws are far too lax," indicated State Board Member Cleo Mathews of Hinton. Mathews argues that home school providers do not have to establish grading standards as do public schools nor do many of them have an instructional term requirement that is comparable to the public schools. The bill has passed the House of Delegates and now moves to the Senate.  

Board members also agreed to support the section of House Bill 2201 that imposes an excise tax on smokeless tobacco citing that it might deter young people from purchasing the products.  

"Unfortunately, West Virginia males are second in the nation in the use of smokeless tobacco," stated State Board Member Jim MacCallum of Boone County. "Many experts believe that smokeless tobacco can be more addictive than cigarette smoking since it enters the blood stream more rapidly. Clearly, we need to address this critical health issue."  

The State Board adopted a strict tobacco control policy in the early 1990s that is considered a nationwide model in preventing youth addiction to tobacco products.  

The policy prohibits the possession, use or distribution of tobacco products in school buildings, on school grounds, in school-leased or owned vehicles, and at all school-affiliated functions.  

"Because the use of tobacco products has a direct link to health problems, the State Board was adamant in passing a policy that, not only provided for preventive education and cessation support education, but explicitly prohibited the possession of tobacco products at all school-related events," MacCallum added. "Compliance of this policy is mandatory for students, school personnel and visitors."  

The State Department of Education recently received a significant grant from the Bureau of Public Health to provide additional tobacco prevention training in schools. Allocated from tobacco settlement dollars, this training also allows for continuation of the successful "Life Skills" program, another drug prevention program launched in 1999. Life Skills training is designed to target the primary causes of substance use and is proven to reduce tobacco, smokeless tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use.  

Over 40% of West Virginia teenagers smoke as compared to the national rate of 36%. The rate among males ages 15-19 was 31% in West Virginia versus 16% nationwide.  

"Other states that have imposed excise taxes on smokeless tobacco have seen a significant reduction in usage," noted Howard Persinger, state board member from Williamson. "We must continue to find ways to discourage young people from using tobacco products and promote a pro-active approach to tobacco control."  

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