Tuesday, February 8, 2011

West Virginia, Almost Heaven

From the state that brings you black lung disease, West Virginia again leads the nation as the state with the largest concentration of adult smokers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tobacco Control State Highlights 2010 -
In West Virginia, 26.5% of the adult population (aged 18+ years) — over 378,000 individuals — are current cigarette smokers. Across all states, the prevalence of cigarette smoking among adults ranges from 9.3% to 26.5%. West Virginia ranks 51st among the states (including the District of Columbia).
That's greater than 1 out of 4 adults smoking cigarettes in WV!

But even more frightful, West Virginia also has NO statewide smoke-free laws of any strength in place to protect their citizens from secondhand smoke. As a matter of fact, in 2008, the state legislature purposely shot down statewide smoking ban legislation. Don't they know that smoking kills way more people than black lung disease?

As described in the same Tobacco Control State Highlights introduction -
Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. An estimated 46 million American adults currently smoke cigarettes and annually cigarette smoking causes approximately 443,000 deaths. Half of all long-term smokers die prematurely from smoking-related causes. For every person who dies from tobacco use, another 20 suffer with at least one serious tobacco-related illness.

Furthermore, exposure to secondhand smoke causes premature death and disease in nonsmokers. In 2009, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that secondhand smoke exposure causes heart attacks, even brief exposure to secondhand smoke could plausibly trigger a heart attack, and smoke-free laws result in fewer heart attack hospitalizations. Additionally, the Surgeon General, concluded in 2006 that there is about a 25%-30% increase in the risk of coronary heart disease from exposure to secondhand smoke. Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work also increase their lung cancer risk by 20%-30%.
According to the West Virginia Division of Tobacco Prevention, the leading cause of death and disease in West Virginia continues to be tobacco use with high prevalence for both smoking and spit tobacco. Almost 4,000 West Virginia residents die each year from tobacco use and, if current trends continue, over 40,000 more residents will die by the year 2020 because of their addiction to tobacco.

That's more people than the population of some of the state's largest cities.

With the numbers of deaths reaching such high levels one would think that West Virginia legislators would consider smoking to be their most serious constituent concern, and address it quickly and appropriately. I can't understand their lack of action. Who knows? Maybe it's more important to them for their smoking citizens to be a little closer to the state's former slogan - "Almost Heaven".

I also can't understand why West Virginia citizens would allow themselves to lead the nation in this terrible category? Surely, West Virginia residents wouldn't be foolish enough to elect representatives that don't care about their health and welfare. The smoking voters couldn't possibly outnumber the non-smoking voters.. at least not yet.

But, then on the other hand, I do remember this television cigarette commercial from my past that may put things in better perspective.

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