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Adult smoking rate fell in state, fell faster in county

Data for 2009 show some groups with continuing trouble

By , Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter
Published: August 21, 2010, 12:00am

The adult smoking rate in Washington has fallen to third-lowest in the nation, and Clark County dropped even lower than the state’s figure.

Call the state tobacco “quit line” at 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Callers get help from coaches and receive a packet of material by mail.

New survey results released this week show Washington’s adult smoking rate in 2009 dropped to a new low of 14.8 percent. That’s down from 15.3 percent the previous year, according to the state Department of Health.

Washington’s third-lowest rate (behind Utah and California) is the state’s best showing since national rankings started in 1995.

Clark County’s adult smoking rate in 2009 fell to 14.4 percent, said Theresa Cross, with the county’s tobacco prevention and education program. That’s down from 16.7 percent in 2008.

Call the state tobacco "quit line" at 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Callers get help from coaches and receive a packet of material by mail.

“The State Department of Health provided a three-year rolling rate of 16.2 percent in Clark County from 2007-2009,” Cross said.

Since the state tobacco prevention program started in 2000, the smoking rate has declined by about a third, according to the Department of Health.

Part of that can be attributed to recent legislation that bans smoking in public places, Cross said. That includes property owners who are enforcing tobacco-free housing policies.

Washington also has the nation’s third-highest highest cigarette tax, at $3.03 a pack.

But some groups continue to resist the message.

“The rates for people with low incomes and low education levels haven’t budged,” Cross said. Those rates are 29 percent and 27 percent, state officials said.

Among people with mental-health or substance-abuse problems, smoking rates can hit 80 percent, Cross said.

And, while smoking rates are dropping, some people are moving to smokeless tobacco or using both. The rate of smokeless tobacco use is 3.3 percent in Clark County; it’s 3.7 percent in the state, Cross said.

The use of smokeless tobacco has more than doubled in the past 10 years among people who also smoke, health officials reported. The trend coincides with the tobacco industry’s introduction of new smokeless tobacco products and flavoring, as well as stepped-up marketing, officials said.

The Department of Health tracks adult tobacco use through a behavioral-risk survey. The latest findings come from telephone surveys conducted throughout 2009. More than 20,000 adults were asked about tobacco use and other health behaviors.

Tom Vogt: tom.vogt@columbian.com or 360-735-4558.

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