U.S. adult smoking rate dips to 18 percent; when state rates come out, will Kentucky still have the country’s highest?

CDC chart; confidence interval (or error margin) means that
 95 percent of the time, the result for the entire U.S. population
would be within the range indicated at the tops of the bars.

The smoking rate for U.S. adults dropped to 18 percent last year, continuing a steady decline since 2009, when it was 20.6 percent, says an early release report of the 2012 National Health Interview Survey by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While state numbers will be released later, Kentucky’s 2011 smoking rate was 29 percent, higher than any other state, says the CDC’s Tobacco Control State Highlights 2012 report. (For county-by-county figures, click here.) State leaders and other observers have cited the high rate as the largest single reason for the state’s health problems.

A recent editorial in the Kentucky New Era of Hopkinsville, a tobacco town that recently enacted a smoking ban, says this about the state’s smoking statistics: “Medical expenses related to smoking are $1.5 billion annually and smoking is the cause of approximately 7,800 deaths each year.”

The editorial says the state’s tobacco use hurts its economy and quality of life. In addition to health-care costs, smoking-caused productivity losses in Kentucky total $2.3 billion a year. These amounts do not include health costs caused by exposure to secondhand smoke or other tobacco use, and does not include the money spent to purchase cigarettes.

“At the very least, Kentucky’s political, health and business leaders should know the rates of smoking and what it costs the state in medical care and diminished earning potential,” says the editorial.

Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, commissioner for Kentucky’s Department of Public Health, recently told a legislative committee that a typical smoker in the state spent $2,237 last year on cigarettes, says the editorial. And, despite Kentucky’s continuous efforts to discourage youth smoking, about 6,100 minors begin smoking each year, reports The Associated Press.

Overall, the U.S. survey found smoking rates were lower among adults ages 65 and over (8.9 percent) than among those ages 45 to 64 (19.5 percent) and those ages 18 to 44 (20.3 percent). Additionally, the percentage of current smokers was higher for men (20.4 percent) than for women (15.8 percent). The report doesn’t include smoking rates for children. Click here to read about all CDC early-release measures.

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