by Max Brantley
State officials claim a drop of some 84,000 smokers since the state began campaigning to curb the habit.
I bet the drop would have been sharper if Arkansas had moved more aggressively to tax cigs. We currently charge 59 cents a pack, 38th in the country.
(Note: at a rate of a pack a day, the decline in smoking has cost the state $18 million in revenue annually.)
Not to worry about that low rate, though. There's talk of a big boost -- 50 cents a pack -- to pay for a statewide trauma care system.
(LITTLE ROCK--) New research shows that Arkansas is making definite headway in its fight against tobacco use in the state. Three separate studies indicate positive outcomes, including significant reductions in adult smoking, lower hospitalization rates for diseases related to tobacco use, and positive results for youth smoking. This news is significant because tobacco use has been linked to the top three causes of death in the state which are heart disease, stroke and cancer.
“From the beginning, Arkansas has pledged its tobacco-settlement funds strictly to health programs, and these are the benefits of that investment,” Governor Mike Beebe said. “Continuing this trend can help curb the spiraling costs of health care for Arkansans.”
A new study shows that there were 84,000 fewer smokers in Arkansas in 2007 than if smoking rates in 2002 had continued unchanged to 2007. Since 2002 the percentage of adults in Arkansas who smoke decreased from 26.3 percent to 22.4 percent in 2007.
“What this tells us is that our programs are all working together to bring rates of tobacco use down,” said Paul K. Halverson, DrPH, FACHE, State Health Officer and Director of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). “The drop in the adult rate is very encouraging, because it is most difficult to change that rate. Evidence has shown that only a comprehensive approach to tobacco control can do that.”
A smaller number of adult smokers is already translating into a significant reduction in hospitalization rates for heart disease, stroke, emphysema and bronchitis, according to a study on hospitalization costs done by ADH. Using hospitalization charges for these conditions, the bottom line savings amounts to $22 million dollars in 2006 alone.
“It’s important to note that these projections apply to only one year, but we are really contemplating a lifetime of savings, and in fact, lives saved for many years to come,” said Joe Bates, MD, Deputy State Health Officer and Chief Science Officer. “As we continue to reduce the numbers of young people who never start smoking, the financial impact on our state is very, very positive.”
The news is even better for reductions in youth smoking. Since 2001 the rate of current cigarette smoking has dropped from 34.7 percent to 20.7 percent in 2007 among Arkansas high school students, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey (YRBSS).
Dr. Joe Thompson, Director of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement and Arkansas’s Surgeon General said, “This is encouraging news and we’re definitely headed in the right direction, but tobacco use continues to place too great a burden on our state.” According to Thompson, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that smoking-caused health costs and productivity losses total $10.28 per pack sold. In Arkansas, that amounts to more than $2 billion a year.
Dr. Paul Halverson said, “Evidence points to the fact that all the different intervention programs must be in place for the best outcomes. Combined cessation and prevention programs are the key to our continued success.”
For more information on how the Arkansas Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program works to reduce tobacco use in Arkansas, visit the website at: www.stampoutsmoking.com .