Saturday, December 17, 2016

Ky. again No.1 in adult smoking: 25.9 percent, just ahead of W.Va.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Once again, Kentucky ranks first for its adult smoking rates, barely inching ahead of West Virginia to take back the first place spot, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kentucky's adult smoking rate in 2015, the latest period available, is 25.9 percent; West Virginia's is 25.7 percent. That means that more than one-fourth of the adults in both of these states smoke. Arkansas closely follows at 24.9 percent.
States with the lowest smoking rates are Utah at 9.1 percent and California at 11.7 percent.

"Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S., accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year, or one of every five deaths," says the CDC.

Nationwide, smoking rates have declined almost 28 percent since 2005, to 15.1 percent in 2015 from 20.9 percent in 2005, says the CDC report based on the 2015 National Health Interview Survey. Kentucky's smoking rates declined 10 percent in the same time frame, from 28.7 percent to 25.9 percent respectively, according to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a constant national poll conducted by the CDC.

The report also notes that smoking is more prevalent among men, Native Americans, the poor, the less educated, Midwesterners and Southerners, people who on are Medicaid or are uninsured, and those who have a disability, are gay or bisexual, or have mental-health issues.

The CDC says we know how to reduce smoking: "Proven population-based interventions, including tobacco price increases, comprehensive smoke-free laws, anti-tobacco mass media campaigns and barrier-free access to tobacco cessation counseling and medications, are critical to reducing cigarette smoking and smoking related disease and death among U.S. adults; particularly among subpopulations with the highest smoking prevalence," said the report.

Kentucky has room for improvement in all of these areas.

Kentucky ranks in the bottom 10 states (43rd) for its cigarette tax, at 60 cents per pack, and spends only 4.4 percent of what the CDC recommends for smoking cessation efforts ($2.5 million a year). The state's high smoking rate also comes with a hefty price tag, as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimates Kentucky smoking-related health costs at $1.92 billion a year. The group ranks Kentucky 37th in protecting children from tobacco, and says 17 percent of its high-school students smoke.

And though Kentucky has tried to pass one in the past, Kentucky does not have a comprehensive statewide smoke-free law and isn't likely to get one any time soon because Republican Gov. Matt Bevin does not support such a law, saying this should be a local decision. State Health Commissioner Hiram Polk said in October that he's looking for away to get Bevin to alter his policy: "We've got to find some kind of landmark we can use there that would be acceptable to the governor and get through the legislature."

About one-third of Kentuckians are protected by local comprehensive smoke-free workplace laws, according to the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy.

In contrast, Utah, which has the lowest smoking rate (9.1 percent), does have a comprehensive statewide smoke-free law, has a cigarette tax of $1.70 per pack and spends $7.1 million on tobacco cessation initiatives, which is almost 37 percent of the CDC's recommended spending. And Utah spends less on health cost caused by smoking at $542 million.

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