Orleans County smoking rate nearly twice the state average

Posted 15 January 2014 at 12:00 am

Press Release, Reality Check and Smoke Free NOW

ALBION, NY – Director of Public Health, Paul A. Pettit and local tobacco-control advocates Reality Check and Smoke Free NOW are drawing attention today to the tremendous health and financial burden caused by tobacco use in our local communities. The United States Surgeon General says tobacco marketing is a cause of tobacco use. The 32nd Report on Smoking and Health will highlight the 50th anniversary of the first Smoking and Health report released in January 1964. The report was the first to hit the American public that identified smoking as a cause of lung cancer in men.

The Surgeon General’s 32nd Report on Smoking and Health, released later this month, provides new findings on the health effects of smoking along with a call to end the continuing tobacco use epidemic. In New York, tobacco use remains the leading cause of premature death and disease, with the highest smoking rates among the poorest New Yorkers who disproportionally suffer the deadly consequences of tobacco use.

New York State is a leader in tobacco control with strong clean indoor air laws, the highest tobacco taxes in the nation; smoke-free outdoor laws, youth prevention initiatives, and cessation programs that together have led to substantial reductions in smoking rates among adults and youth. However, more than 25,000 New Yorkers still die every year due to tobacco use.

“New Yorkers earning less than $25,000 per year and those who report poor mental health are still smoking at significantly higher rates that the rest of the population and helping them quit remains an uphill battle,” said Mr. Pettit. “We need to ensure effective resources continue to be available to protect youth from ever starting, and to help those most vulnerable to smoking (people with lower income and reporting poor mental health) successfully quit.”

In New York State, the smoking rate for middle school students has declined to 3.1 percent and the smoking rate for high school students has declined to 11.9 percent. The adult smoking rate has been reduced to 16.2%, but is much higher in some parts of the state. In Orleans and Genesee County, the smoking rate remains at 29.9% and 18.7% respectively; higher than the state average.

“Research has shown the poorest New Yorkers have the highest smoking rates and as a result suffer more deadly illnesses due to tobacco use”, said Kevin Keenan, project director for Smoke Free NOW; a program of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. Furthermore, some counties in upstate New York have higher than average lung cancer rates largely driven by higher than average smoking rates. The American Lung Association has estimated that if no one in the United States smoked, one-third of all cancer deaths could be avoided.

The New York State Tobacco Control Program effectively reduces tobacco use, saves lives and saves money. The Department of Health estimates that approximately 35 percent of the total decline in adult smoking is attributable to youth prevention strategies. The significant reduction in smoking among young adults will reduce future health care costs by approximately $5 billion.

“It is hard to believe that we are still fighting this deadly product fifty years later,” said Kyla McCormick, Program Coordinator for Reality Check in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming Counties. “We’ve made tremendous progress, but we must continue to tackle the enormous financial and health burden that tobacco use causes our community.”

For more information contact Smoke Free NOW at 585-815-1875 or Reality Check at 585-344-3960.