By Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, editorial director
At the opening briefing at the conference of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), unveiled a new report on state-specific tobacco control measures. As health commissioner in New York City until he took his current post last June, Frieden gained a reputation for tackling chronic health issues. (We reported in 2007 on his controversial diabetes initiative.)
Frieden says that while there is a clear change in societal attitudes towards tobacco use (for example, he says, we’ve moved from “Would you like a cigarette?” to “Do you mind if I smoke?”), progress in reducing tobacco use has been stalled since 2004. He noted the significant success of graphic “counter-marketing” efforts (ads depicting individuals who have physical disabilities, amputations, and laryngectomies as a result of tobacco use) in reducing smoking rates (though at least one study reported by the BBC has suggested that such in-your-face ads may be more likely to keep people smoking than to make them quit). However, said Frieden, “Tobacco taxation is the single most effective tool, accounting for half or more of the reduction in tobacco use.” Among the findings Frieden highlighted:
– The U.S prevalence rate is at 18%, and at 20% among high school students.
– State taxes on cigarettes range from $3.43 in Rhode Island to $.07 in South Carolina.
– While 21 states have laws requiring smoke-free workplaces and bars and restaurants, a number of states have none.
– California has the longest-running tobacco control program in the country and its lung cancer rates have declined four times faster than in the rest of the United States
– States with the best record on reducing tobacco use: Utah and California; states with the worst record: Kentucky and West Virginia.
Nurses, of course, have long been involved in counseling patients to stop smoking. But some nurse have taken it a step further. The Nightingales are a group of nurses who are anti-tobacco activists (see our story on their 2004 attendance at tobacco shareholder meetings). Do you have any successful stories about quitting smoking – even your own?