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Bluegrass earns straight Fs in smoking prevention

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By Margarita Cambest
Kentucky New Era

A new survey says Kentucky made zero progress in reducing tobacco-related death and illness in the past year.
The American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control report gave the state straight Fs in all measured aspects of smoking prevention. The report tracks yearly progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state level, assigning grades based on whether laws are adequately protecting citizens, according to a release.
Grades were based on funding for tobacco prevention and control programs, cigarette taxes, smoke-free ordinances and cessation coverage.
While the percentage of adult smokers nationwide decreased from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 19.6 percent in 2012, Kentucky still has one of the highest rates of adult smokers in the country at 28.3 percent. In the Pennyrile region, the rate of smoking is higher at 31 percent, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey.
Tobacco causes an estimated 7,848 deaths in Kentucky annually and costs the state’s economy $3.7 billion in health care costs and lost productivity.
One of the ways Kentucky could do better on next year’s report card is by initiating a statewide smoke-free law, according to the release.
“Smoke-free workplace laws, high tobacco taxes, funding tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs at recommended levels and providing insurance coverage for quit smoking treatments have been proven to reduce tobacco use. All that is missing in Kentucky is the political will from our elected officials,” said Ellen Kershaw, director of advocacy at the Kentucky American Lung Association.
Christian County initiated a ban on smoking in enclosed public workplaces in 2013. Although a statewide ban has come up on multiple occasions in the General Assembly, Kentucky lacks a comprehensive ban that covers all counties.
“Despite great strides in reducing smoking rates in America, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and illness in the U.S.,” Kershaw said.
Editor’s note: Reprinted with permission through the Kentucky Press News Service.