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Ohio bucks national trend with stagnant smoking rates

The Daily Record - 6/27/2018

While the national adult smoking rate hit another record low last year, the statewide rate remained stagnant, frustrating local health officials.

About 14 percent of U.S. adults were smokers last year, down from about 16 percent the year before, figures from the Centers for Disease Control show.

In Ohio, the rate remained steady at 22.5 percent, according the Ohio Department of Health. That’s one of the highest rates in the country.

“It’s great the (national) rate is going down, but we don’t want to underestimate the impact of tobacco on Ohioans,”said Mandy Burkett, manager of the Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Program for the state health department.

The smoking rate in Franklin County mirrored that of the state at 22.4 percent as of 2016, the latest available statistics, according to Columbus Public Health.

The new figures do not include e-cigarettes, which have been on the U.S. market since 2008 but have gained wider use in recent years, especially among younger users.

Since 2014, e-cigarettes have surpassed traditional cigarettes in popularity for middle school and high school-aged children, officials from the CDC said.

E-cigarettes are battery powered devices that heat up liquid, which contain nicotine, into a vapor that users inhale. They’ve gained popularity because of their availability and various e-liquid flavors such as cotton candy, mango and cinnamon rolls.

Health officials say there has not been enough research to know the long term effects of smoking e-cigarettes, but studies have linked them to cigarette use later in life. The Ohio Department of Health has used social media to try to share the dangers of e-cigarettes with youth, Burkett said.

The state health department takes a three-pronged approach to the problem of smoking: prevention, increasing the amount of people who quit and protecting others from second-hand smoke, she said.

Franklin County started a new initiative in April to help community members quit. The cessation program targets all tobacco products and is free and open to anyone age 18 and over, said Theresa Seagraves, Franklin County’s director of health systems and planning.

The county and state place a particular emphasis on reaching people at high-risk of tobacco use, including people with low income, low education or poor mental health. They also try to reach pregnant women.

Myles Bell, a spokesman for Columbus Public Health, said the city supports several initiatives to help smokers quit including a “Baby & Me Tobacco Free” program to assist pregnant women who want to stop smoking. The city is also helping the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority and a few properties owned by Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio go smoke-free at the end of July.

And in Dec. 2016, the city passed a law that requires those who buy tobacco, tobacco products or tobacco paraphernalia to be 21, including juuls, a relatively new vaping device that looks like a USB flash drive and is popular with high school and college students. Other cities have adopted the law, including Cleveland and Akron.

Progress is being made, despite the stagnant smoking rates, state officials said.

“We’re doing good work with the money we have,” Burkett said.

bmeibers@dispatch.com

@BMeibers

CREDIT: BONNIE MEIBERS

 
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