LEXINGTON, Ky., May 5 According to new research findings published today in the Southern Medical Journal, if Kentucky fails to implement and enforce strong tobacco control policies more than 17,000 state residents will needlessly die prematurely from smoking over just the next fifteen to twenty years. Kentucky currently has the highest adult smoking rate in the United States. Kentucky also has weak public policies addressing smoking, with a cigarette tax ranked 46th of all states and tobacco control expenditures ranked 39th among states.
Using a model called SimSmoke, researchers from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation studied the effect such policies can have on future smoking prevalence and smoking-attributable deaths in Kentucky. SimSmoke is a computer simulation of tobacco control policy effects developed by David Levy, Ph.D., the study's author and a senior research scientist at PIRE. The model was developed with Ellen Hahn, DNS, Professor from the University of Kentucky College of Nursing and College of Public Health and Director of the Tobacco Policy Research Program, and staff from the Kentucky Governor's Office of Wellness and Physical Activity, Tobacco Prevention & Cessation Program.
The model examined the impact of tobacco control policies specifically recommended in the Healthy People 2010 goals, a set of health objectives for the nation that includes reducing adult smoking prevalence to 12 percent by 2010. If the United States is to make progress toward reaching those goals, states such as Kentucky with high smoking rates must lower those rates.
If current tobacco policies are maintained, the SimSmoke model estimates that about 7,500 adults will die prematurely from smoking this year alone, and that number will increase in future years. However, when the policies recommended by Healthy People 2010 are implemented, as many as 1,100 deaths may be averted in the year 2020 alone. These include raising the state tax to $2.00 per pack, implementing comprehensive smoke-free policies throughout the state, running well-funded, sustained media campaigns, and providing all smokers access to smoking cessation treatments.
"States with effective tobacco control policies significantly impact smoking rates and save lives. This study specifically shows the positive effect these policies can have in states like Kentucky with high smoking rates and weak tobacco control policies," said Levy.
Hahn said, "Of all the tobacco control policies that we simulated for Kentucky, we found that significant increases in tobacco taxes, clean air laws, and media campaigns would have the greatest potential to reduce smoking prevalence by 2010. Cessation treatment, school education, and youth access policies will play a greater role in later years."
"Without the political will to raise tobacco taxes and adequately fund comprehensive tobacco control programs, tobacco use will continue to take its toll on our quality of life and our pocketbook," said Amy Barkley, Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids.
Many states have already implemented strong tobacco control policies. However, if we are going to come close to reaching the Healthy People 2010 goals, those states with high smoking rates and weak tobacco will need to implement strong tobacco control policies. "Kentucky, like many of the other states with high smoking rates, has a considerable historical burden of tobacco production to overcome," said Levy. "But states such as California that have stronger policies indicate that the projections found through the study are attainable."
Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation is dedicated to merging scientific knowledge and proven practice to create solutions that improve the health, safety, and well-being of individuals, communities, nations and the world. The In