Last Thursday, just in time for the annual Great American Smokeout, a day dedicated to smokers who want to give up the habit, Gallup released a list of state-by-state smoking rates, and how they stacked up against the national average of 21 percent.
This is not a list anyone wants to top — yet, there was Kentucky at No. 1 with a 29 percent rate of adults who smoke discount Chesterfield cigarettes. That means almost one in three adult Kentuckians smokes.
Other states in the South and Midwest were nipping at Kentucky’s heels — Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ohio, Missouri, West Virginia, Indiana (25 percent) and Tennessee rounded out the Top 10.
Utah was No. 50 with an 11 percent smoking rate.
So how does Kentucky bridge that smoke-filled canyon to healthier, more pristine Utah territory?
The Gallup-reported rate would suggest that additional taxes on cigarettes sold in Kentucky haven’t made much of a dent.
If money doesn’t talk, what will?
Perhaps a reminder of the health hit parade for Kentucky, which, according to americanhealthrankings.org, includes: high prevalence of smoking and obesity; high rate of preventable hospitalizations; and high rate of cancer deaths.
It’s no coincidence that those miserable indicators are tied to smoking.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking affects nearly every organ in the body and accounts for 443,000 deaths throughout the nation every year.
The CDC also says smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, responsible for more deaths than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined.
It increases the risk of heart disease by two to four times; stroke, by two to four times; lung cancer in men by 23 times, and in women by 13 times; and dying of chronic obstructive lung diseases by 12 to 13 times.
It increases the risks of infertility, early delivery, stillbirth, low birth-weight babies and sudden infant death syndrome.
There are even suggestions that secondhand smoke affects family pets: WebMD reports that there is evidence that smoking increases the risks of tumors and cancers in dogs and cats that live in smoke-filled homes.
More than 46 million Americans still light up, despite all the incontrovertible evidence of smoking’s detriments. The rates of people who ignore the evidence are higher in Kentucky and Indiana than the national average. More must be done to counter smoking’s deadly hold on them.