A new report released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that rates of adult cigarette smoking and smokeless tobacco use vary widely from state to state depending on how effectively states have implemented proven strategies to reduce tobacco use. The report finds that many smokers also use smokeless tobacco, raising concerns about recent tobacco marketing that presents smokeless tobacco as a substitute for cigarettes where smoking is not allowed.
These results have important implications for the fight against tobacco use, the nation’s number one cause of preventable death.
First, the report provides dramatic new evidence of the effectiveness of scientifically proven strategies to reduce tobacco use, including higher tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free workplace laws and well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The report demonstrates that states with the lowest smoking rates have implemented these measures, while those with the highest rates have not:
– The 11 states with the lowest smoking rates (there is a tie for tenth) had an average cigarette tax of $2.19 per pack at the end of 2009, while the 10 states with the highest smoking rates had an average cigarette tax of just 62 cents.
– All 11 states with the lowest smoking rates have strong smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars; NONE of the 10 states with the highest rates has such a law.
– The states with the lowest smoking rates include several ? California, Massachusetts and Washington ? that have conducted sustained, effective tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Unfortunately, states have cut total funding for these programs by 28 percent, or $200 million, in the past three years, and most fall woefully short of meeting the CDC’s recommended funding levels.
Second, the report raises a warning flag that recent tobacco company marketing campaigns for smokeless tobacco products may be undermining efforts to reduce smoking. The report finds that in 32 states, more than 10 percent of male smokers also currently use smokeless tobacco.
This finding comes as the tobacco industry is marketing new smokeless tobacco products as a substitute for cigarettes in the growing number of places where smoking is not permitted. Marketing for R.J. Reynolds’ Camel Snus smokeless product have used the slogan “Pleasure for wherever,” specifically encouraging use of the product in offices, bars, airplanes and concerts. Similarly, advertising for Philip Morris’ Marlboro Snus state, “So next time smoking isn’t an option, just reach for your Snus.”
These products and marketing campaigns clearly discourage smokers from quitting ? and truly protecting their health. As the CDC stated in its report today, “Research suggests that persons who use multiple tobacco products might have a more difficult time quitting, which might result in longer durations of product use and an increased likelihood” of tobacco-related disease and death.
In its overall findings, the report shows that adult cigarette smoking rates in 2009 ranged from highs of 25.6 percent in Kentucky and West Virginia to lows of 9.8 percent in Utah and 12.9 percent in California. Smokeless tobacco use rates ranged from a high of 9.1 percent in Wyoming to a low of 1.3 percent in California.
These widely varying rates of tobacco use result in large disparities in tobacco-related death and disease. Many of the states with the highest smoking rates also have the highest rates of lung and bronchus cancer in the nation. If every state reduced smoking to the same low rate as California, there would be nearly 12 million fewer smokers in the United States, greatly improving health and saving lives.
Tobacco use kills more than 400,000 Americans and costs the nation $96 billion in health care costs each year. Today’s CDC report is another important reminder that we know how to reduce tobacco use and its devastating consequences, but need the political leadership and resources to implement these solutions nationally and in every state.
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