Illinois' smoking numbers decrease
PRINCETON -- Tobacco-related illnesses killed more than 16,500 Illinois residents and cost the state $6.7 billion annually in medical care and lost productivity.
Those were the numbers released by Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Eric E. Whitaker.
"The cost of smoking to all of us is staggering, both in terms of the many years of productive lives lost and in the high price for direct and indirect health care costs," Whitaker said. "While progress has been made since the surgeon general first reported on the harmful effects of tobacco 40 years ago, there is still much to do to reach the goal of tobacco-free generations."
Whitaker released statistics that showed 16,597 people from Illinois died in 2001 (the most recent year with complete statistics). That number represents 16 percent of all deaths due to smoking-attributable causes, including cancer, heart diseases and respiratory diseases. That figure is down 9.2 percent from nearly 18,500 deaths, or almost 18 percent of all deaths reported in 1999.
In 2001, there were 5,864 cardiovascular diseases deaths, 6,789 deaths from malignant tumors and 3,944 deaths from respiratory diseases linked to smoking. Of those 16,597 smoking-related deaths, 10,053 were men and 6,544 were women.
Nationally, the U.S. Surgeon General estimates for every person who dies of a smoking-related disease, there are 20 more people suffering with at least one serious illness from smoking. Excluding adult deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that adult male and female smokers lose an average of 13.2 and 14.5 years of life respectively.
The $6.7 billion annual economic cost to Illinois is in terms of prevention, diagnosis/treatment and mortality and morbidity through lost income and productivity for those who die prematurely or are disabled by smoking-related illness. That total amounts to $542 per every man, woman and child in the state.
The Illinois Department of Public Health estimates that 22.9 percent of the Illinois population, 18 years of age and older, were smoking in 2002 -- about 25 percent of adult males and about 20 percent of adult females. The number of Illinois people who smoke has dropped from 26.5 percent 15 years ago.
According to Doria Oliver, tobacco coordinator for the Bureau County Health Department, the department is making significant strides in both tobacco prevention and cessation efforts.
Last year, Oliver reached over 1,465 Bureau County students with drug/tobacco education messages.
"Tobacco companies sell a product that kills 1,200 of their best customers in the U.S. every day," says Oliver. "In order to find new customers, the tobacco industry spends over $8 billion a year on tobacco advertising which targets kids and makes smoking appear glamorous, grown-up and cool."
Oliver said children who have their first cigarette before age 18 usually end up as smokers for life. She believes that despite massive marketing by the tobacco companies, tobacco education efforts are making a difference.
"When kids learn that nicotine is one of the most highly-addictive substances on Earth, comparable to heroin or cocaine, they have a better understanding of the addictive nature of tobacco and the difficulty in quitting."
Oliver provides students with information about cessation they can take home.
Oliver said there is no magic bullet for quitting and emphasized the thrust of tobacco education needs to be helping kids never start. She said for more information on the tobacco programs available at the health department, she can be reached at (815) 872-5091, ext. 24 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.