Ky. Launching Anti-Smoking Campaign
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The nation's No. 1 state in smoking and No. 2 in tobacco growing is launching its first statewide anti-smoking campaign, with a modest early goal.
``If we can make it to No. 2, we can probably make it to No. 5 or No. 8,'' Dr. Rice Leach, public health commissioner, said Tuesday. ``If we can do that, we're on our way to getting somewhere in the middle of the pack.''
The General Assembly last month enacted Gov. Paul Patton's plan to spend $5.5 million over two years on smoking prevention programs. The money, which Leach's agency will parcel out to local health departments after Jan. 1, is from Kentucky's share of a national tobacco settlement.
The legislature also appropriated $5 million to establish a substance-abuse agency that will focus on tobacco, drug and alcohol use.
The total is a fraction of what some other states are spending to fight smoking. It is also $25 million less than the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated Kentucky should be spending, considering the size of its smoking habit.
However, it is the first time Kentucky has attempted a statewide anti-smoking campaign.
``It took us 200 years of Kentucky economy to become as dependent on tobacco as we have become,'' Leach said. ``Most people in Kentucky know smoking's bad for you. Most people who smoke wish they didn't. They just need some help and understanding while all the population moves in that direction.''
Slightly more than three in 10 Kentucky adults smoke, a rate that has been declining but still tops that of all other states. The national rate is 23.2 percent, according to the CDC.
Kentucky also has the highest rate of youth smokers and of smoking-related deaths, and runs up $800 million a year in medical bills for smoking-associated illnesses, according to the CDC. The state tax on cigarettes, 3 cents per pack, is the nation's second-lowest.
Kentucky produced 400 million pounds of tobacco in 1999, second only to North Carolina's 429 million.
North Carolina has spent little so far on smoking prevention, but Gov. Jim Hunt said he would support allocating a significant portion of the state's tobacco settlement money for programs to reduce teen smoking. Virginia has concentrated on enforcing laws against selling tobacco products to minors.