1CHARLESTON — More than a third of West Virginia high school students vape, according to a health department report released Thursday that says youth e-cigarette use in the state is outpacing the rest of the country.

The study, titled “West Virginia Youth and Vaping: A Dangerous Combination,’’ labels vaping among young people in the state as an “epidemic.’’

Nearly 36% of high school students report they currently use e-cigarettes, about 8% percent higher than the national rate, the report said. More than one in six West Virginia middle school students are also vaping, about 5% higher than the national figure.

An estimated 4,200 West Virginians die from tobacco-related diseases annually, according to the report. The rising use of e-cigarettes among youth presents yet another problem.

“Youth vaping has created a new addiction for West Virginia’s next generation with the potential to impair, if not cripple, West Virginia’s future health and economy, “the report said.

The Department of Health and Human Resources has proposed a multipronged strategy to combat the rise in vaping. The report recommends raising the tax on vaping products, requiring warnings on vaping products and having more tobacco prevention initiatives in schools.

The report dropped as boards of health in Cabell and Kanawha counties this month banned the use of e-cigarettes in public spaces.

Former Mineral deputy circuit clerk charged with

embezzlement

2KEYSER — A former employee in a West Virginia county has been charged with embezzlement and fraudulent schemes for allegedly taking tens of thousands of dollars over a three-year period.

Former Mineral County Chief Deputy Circuit Clerk Gary Duane Feaster was charged Friday, state Auditor John B. McCuskey’s office said in a news release.

Evidence presented by the prosecutor shows Feaster took $65,000 to $87,000 from the clerk’s office, the release said. Some of the money belonged to crime victims for restitution.

The case was investigated by the auditor’s Public Integrity and Fraud Unit.

House passes drug death, suffocation bills

3CHARLESTON — The West Virginia House of Delegates on Friday approved a measure to create a new crime of giving someone a drug that kills them.

Lawmakers passed the bill 90-3 without debate. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.

The proposal carries a felony penalty of one to three years of imprisonment and states that a person must be found to be acting with “reckless disregard’’ for the health of others.

Del. Brandon Steele, a Republican who spoke on behalf of the bill, said the measure could apply to drug dealers and people who share drugs.

The House also unanimously passed a bill to make suffocation and asphyxiation crimes punishable by up to five years in prison.

Del. John Shott, Republican of Mercer County, said the bill comes in response to a request from prosecutors who said the state’s current strangling crime doesn’t always cover similar incidents.

The proposal now heads to the Senate.

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