Study: Utah Boasts Lowest Percentage of Smokers
ATLANTA (Reuters) - Utah, with its large population of non-smoking Mormons, had the lowest incidence of smoking in the United States in 2000, according to a study released on Thursday by federal health experts.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said an annual survey conducted in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico revealed that only 12.9 percent of adults in Utah reported smoking cigarettes last year.
Mormons, who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are opposed to smoking. The church, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, has helped push through strict bans on smoking in public buildings in the state.
At the other end of the pole, Kentucky, which historically has one of the highest smoking rates, led the country in smoking, with 30.5 percent of respondents reporting they lit up last year.
Smoking tended to be more prevalent in Midwestern states, including Indiana, Ohio and Missouri, and lower in Western states such as California, Arizona, Oregon and Washington state.
In a study of 99 metropolitan areas, the CDC reported that Toledo, Ohio, had the highest smoking rate at 31.2 percent, while Orange County, California had the lowest rate at 13 percent.
``Our higher smoking prevalences tend to be in the middle part of the country,'' said Dr. Terry Pechacek, associate director of science for the CDC's Office of Smoking and Health.
Pechacek said tougher restrictions on smoking in Western states such as California as well as various cultural and social factors likely explained the discrepancy in smoking rates among states.
Lung cancer, a disease caused primarily by smoking, kills about 160,000 Americans each year, making it the No. 1 cause of cancer death in the nation. The CDC considers tobacco use to be the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
The Atlanta-based federal agency, which is seeking to reduce the smoking rate to 12 percent by 2010, said it was encouraged that many states were taking steps to cut smoking and reduce the exposure to second-hand smoke.
An estimated 65,000 non-smoking American adults die each year from heart disease and lung cancer caused by second-hand smoke. Exposure can also cause sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, chronic ear infections and other illnesses in children.
CDC researchers said separate data from 19 states and the District of Columbia showed overwhelming support for smoking bans in schools and day-care centers and slightly less support for bans on smoking in indoor work areas.
The proportion of adults working primarily indoors who said their workplace had an official smoke-free policy ranged from 61.4 percent in Mississippi to 83.9 percent in Montana. As of December, 1999, 45 states and the District of Columbia had placed restrictions on smoking in public areas.
``Smoking bans are the most effective way to reduce second-hand smoke,'' said Pechacek, who noted that, based on the study, there was almost ``uniform'' support for bans on smoking in schools and day-care centers.