|Randy Jackson, 50, of Louisville, said he's smoked for 20 years.|
(Photo by Aaron Borton, special to The Courier-Journal)
"Since 1965, the report says, the percentage of U.S. smokers dropped from 42 to 18. But state-by-state statistics that date to 1995 show Kentucky has actually lost ground, with smoking rates rising half a percentage point — even as the nation’s rate dropped by five points." The state's rate is 28.3 percent.
Why is that? ”Kentucky is historically a tobacco-growing state, and many tobacco companies previously were here,” Richard Baumgartner, professor and chairman of epidemiology and population health at the University of Louisville, told Ungar. ”And there’s a longstanding culture of growing tobacco and smoking tobacco. It’s sort of ingrained.”
Ungar notes, "Kentucky has not been able to pass a statewide smoking ban, and the state spends a small fraction of the $57 million a year the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for tobacco prevention — just $2.1 million in each of the last two fiscal years. And state cigarette taxes are 60 cents a pack, compared with a national average of $1.53."
Meanwhile, the state leads the nation in lung cancer and deaths from it, and ranks high in other forms of cancer that can be caused by tobacco. "In Kentucky, 7,800 residents a year die of smoking-related illnesses, nearly a quarter of high school students smoke, and direct healthcare costs attributed to smoking total $1.5 billion a year," Ungar writes.