Nevada yields to Kentucky as state with the most adult smokers
LAS VEGAS (AP) - Kentucky has displaced Nevada as the state with the highest percentage of adult smokers in the nation, according to new statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nevada ranked 49th in the United States for 2000, with smokers making up 29.1 percent of the adult population, the Atlanta-based CDC said in a Dec. 14 report of its most recent survey.
In Kentucky, smokers made up 30.5 percent of the population, according to the study.
"We're going in the right direction," said Nicole Bungum, tobacco control program coordinator for the Clark County Health District in Las Vegas. "Of course, we had nowhere to go but up."
Nevada had led the nation in 1999 with 31.5 percent.
Dr. Sean Ameli, an American Heart Association board member in Las Vegas, said organizations including the American Lung Association and the state's anti-tobacco coalitions deserve praise for the improvement.
However, "It's way too early to bring out the party hats," Ameli told the Las Vegas Sun. "It's pathetic that the only state that's worse than us is a tobacco-producing state."
Dr. Karen Arcotta, chief of cardiology at University Medical Center at Las Vegas, noted that the report only covers people 20 and older.
The fastest-growing demographic group of smokers in Nevada are teen-agers, she said.
"Teen-agers think they're 20-feet tall, bulletproof and invincible," Arcotta said Monday. "Nothing is going to happen to them."
Nevada, where smoking and gambling are intertwined, leads the nation with the most teen smokers, the most deaths from smoking-related diseases and the highest incidence of asthma.
The CDC estimates that 2,600 people in Nevada die each year from smoking-related illnesses, and 84,000 children are exposed to second-hand smoke at home.
Nevada is one of just six states prohibiting local governments from passing stricter tobacco regulations than those set by the state. A bill that would have let local governments ban smoking in grocery stores and public buildings failed during the past legislative session.