Kentucky - rate of adult smoking drops..no longer the highest..


May 14, 2009 - For the first time in years, Kentucky no longer leads the nation in adult smoking, state public health officials said yesterday. Kentucky now trails first-place West Virginia and Indiana, according to the latest numbers from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The rate of adult smoking in Kentucky dropped to 25.2 percent in 2008 from 28.3 percent the previous year, said Irene Centers, manager of the tobacco program with the Kentucky Department of Public Health. Kentucky now trails first-place West Virginia and Indiana, according to the latest numbers from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC).

Centers said 2005's increase in Kentucky's cigarette tax from 3 cents a pack to 30 cents and the growing number of communities that ban smoking in public buildings might explain the drop in adult smoking.

The survey (state conducts the survey every two years)found that 9.7 percent of middle school students smoked last year, compared with 12.1 percent in 2006. But it found 26.8 percent of high school students smoked in 2008, compared to 24.5 percent in 2006.

An anti-smoking coalition had lobbied this year for a cigarette tax increase of at least 70 cents a pack but lawmakers approved only 30 cents.

And Kentucky spends about $3.7 million a year on smoking prevention, a fraction of the $57 million a year the CDC says it should spend. Meanwhile, the tobacco industry spends far more on marketing. But Centers noted smokers must now pay an additional 91 cents a pack because of the 30-cent state increase and this year's federal cigarette tax increase of 61 cents.

Centers said calls to the state's toll-free quit line -- a free counseling service to help people stop smoking -- jumped around the time of the April 1 tax increase.

Still, Kentucky has some of the nation's highest rates of older youths and pregnant women who smoke -- each with rates of about 27 percent -- indicating the state must work harder to reduce smoking and improve health of its citizens, advocates said yesterday.

In 2008 the Kentucky state health ranking was 37th; it was 43rd in 2007.

Reference: Kentucky's adult smoking rate drops State no longer leads the nation by Deborah Yetter • dyetter@courier-journal.com, Louisvile
Courier-Journal, 5/14/2009.

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