Georgia flunks effort to reduce women smokers
ATLANTA -- Georgia isn't doing enough to help women quit smoking, according to an organization that gives the state an "F" on a national report card on woman and tobacco.
Georgia was one of 39 states to flunk the survey, which gauged smoking rates and cessation programs, according to the report card released Monday by the advocacy group National Women's Law Center. Smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer, which kills more women than any other kind of cancer.
"Every program that focuses on women's health should definitely make smoking cessation or smoking prevention among the highest priorities," said Virginia Ernster, an adviser to the law center and an editor of the 2001 surgeon general's report on women and smoking.
Georgia's smoking rates and tobacco programs landed it in the middle of the pack at 28th of 50 states and the District of Columbia, the study shows. About 21 percent of American women smoke compared to Georgia's rate is 20 percent. Among girls in grades 9-12 nationally, almost 28 percent smoke compared to Georgia's rate of 27 percent.
Only Utah meets the 2010 national goal of 12 percent or fewer women smoking. Nevada is where the most women smoke, 28 percent.
The report was released two years after the surgeon general issued a report calling smoking a leading killer of women. The group says state governments are failing to adequately address the problem.
Nationally, about 20 percent of women smoke, compared to roughly 25 percent of men.
But women smokers face unique risks: menstrual irregularities and earlier menopause, infertility; bone-thinning osteoporosis; arthritis; cervical cancer; and dangerous blood clots if they use birth control pills.
Georgia's lowest marks came for not paying for smoking cessation treatment for residents receiving Medicaid, the state-federal health plan for the poor. Seventy percent of Medicaid participants over 15 years old are women, according to the report.
But the report lauded Georgia for funneling a large chunk of tobacco-settlement money to anti-smoking campaigns.
Of the $175 million received this year from the settlement, two-thirds goes toward health care programs, including $11 million for an aggressive secondhand-smoke public awareness campaign.
The state received kudos for a $4.7 million telephone "quit line." Residents speak to counselors and then receive a free kit and follow-up intervention if they're ready to quit.
Since November 2001, when Georgia's program began, more than 26,600 calls have been received; more women call in than men.