Smoking Rates Vary Widely by State
TUESDAY, Nov. 7 (HealthScout) -- What state you call home could mean a huge difference in how many adults around you smoke, a new survey shows.
And that's one reason why the government says we need to do more to cut tobacco use.
Results from the 1999 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a random, state-based telephone survey of U.S. households, found the prevalence of adult cigarette smokers ranged from a low of 13.9 percent in Utah to a high of 31.5 percent in Nevada.
More than 27 percent of adults in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Arkansas and Missouri currently smoke. States with adult smoking rates below 20 percent include California, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Hawaii.
Data from 17 states and the District of Columbia found the percentage of people reporting an official smoke-free policy at work ranged from 61.3 percent in Mississippi to 82.1 percent in Washington, D.C.
Complete results of the survey appear in the Nov. 3 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"The states are very different in their tobacco-control policies and in the marketing that goes on by the tobacco industry -- as well as the counter-marketing," says Linda Pederson, of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "By looking at [these and other differences], we can learn what it is about the states with low smoking prevalence, how they achieve that goal, and what we can do to apply that information to states with higher smoking rates."
Pederson says one of the most interesting things about the report is the apparent increase in the number of people reporting smoking restrictions in the workplace.
"This means fewer people are being exposed to ETS (environmental tobacco smoke) at work," says Pederson. "And we all know there are health effects related to ETS, so this is a good thing."
The government's state-by-state breakdown of smoking rates precedes next week's 24th annual Great American Smokeout, which is sponsored by the American Cancer Society.
This year, the 24-hour event will take place Nov. 16 and encourage smokers to try to kick the habit for a day. To make that goal easier, local cancer society offices will provide free information on quitting strategies and volunteers will conduct related activities.
"In last year's smokeout, 21 percent of smokers participated, including 6 percent who did not smoke at all that day and 15 percent who smoked less than usual," says Ron Todd, of the cancer society. "Any smoker who attempts to quit for the day is considered a participant."
Todd says this year the cancer society will offer a free consumer guide called "Set Yourself Free," which discusses quitting methods such as nicotine replacement and hypnosis.
"It offers ideas on how to prepare [to quit], and gives good background information for people who are thinking about quitting," he says.
"From a health perspective, the single most important thing smokers can do is to stop smoking," he adds.
About one in four adults in the United States smokes cigarettes. Each year, about 430,000 people die from tobacco use, with about 3,000 deaths attributed to secondhand smoke.
What To Do
For more information on the Great American Smokeout, you can call the cancer society at 1-800-227-2345. You can also call the CDC with smoking-related questions at 1-800-232-1311.
If you're planning to try and quit, consider setting up an appointment with your doctor to discuss treatments that can help you win the battle.
Online information about smoking is available from both the American Cancer Society and the CDC.