County smoking declines
Higher cigarette taxes and tougher smoking regulations have helped reduce the number of people who smoke in Kanawha County, the executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department said Thursday.
Dr. Kerry Gateley cited a survey showing that the percentage of adults in Kanawha County who reported smoking dropped from 31 percent in 2002 to 21 percent in 2003.
He attributed the decrease in part to a 2003 Board of Health regulation banning smoking in most enclosed public spaces, including restaurants, and an increase in the state cigarette tax from 17 to 55 cents per pack the same year.
"It is not out of reason that you could get a 10 percent drop in smoking through taxation and increased smoking regulation," Gateley told the board. 'When it becomes inconvenient to smoke, having to get up and go outside, then apparently a good number of people just decide to quit."
The telephone survey, conducted by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, showed less progress for the counties surrounding Kanawha County, including Putnam, Lincoln, Clay and Boone counties, Gateley said.
Of the adults surveyed in 2003, 24 percent reported current tobacco use compared to 30 percent the year before, according to the survey.
Any reduction in smoking, however, reduces the incidence of heart disease, cancer, house fires and other health and safety hazards associated with smoking, Gateley said.
The percentage of adults who smoke in the whole state decreased by only one percent from 28 to 27, in line with the national average which went down to 22 percent in 2003 from 23 the year before.
The same survey shows that reported obesity rates changed little for the city area, county, state and nation in the same one-year period.
Although West Virginia was higher than the national average in the number of adults who smoke, it was not the highest, Gateley said, but lamented that some states like Utah and California, have reported rates of 12 and 17 percent, respectively.
"West Virginia as a whole still has a way to go," he said. "We absolutely have to keep it up, but that doesnâ€™t mean we canâ€™t congratulate ourselves."
Also Thursday, Gateley said the health department will take part in the West Virginia Walks Program and work with the Cabell-Huntington Health Department to encourage people to walk for 30 minutes on most days.
To contact staff writer Morgan Kelly, use e-mail or call 348-1254.