Ohio Joins the Pack Leading Smokers According to One Survey

A recent study conducted and released Thursday by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index reported that just under 26 percent of Ohioans are smokers; matching the smoking rates of Missouri, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Only one state topped the 26 percent mark – Kentucky reflects that 29 percent of the state’s population lights up.

What makes Ohio notable is that it is the only state with a comprehensive smoking ban, yet according to those surveyed reflects more than one-in-four adults lighting up. Officials at the Ohio Department of Health said the report’s findings were no consistent with their own survey conducted and released in 2010 that noted 22.5 percent of the state’s population currently smokes. “Ohio still is a tobacco-growing state and we also know that tobacco usage is largely tied, in many instances, to income and educational levels,” said Mary-jean Siehl, chief of Ohio’s tobacco youth prevention and cessation program.

The percentage of Ohioans who smoke remained unchanged since 2010; where other states saw a decline in the number of smokers. Eighteen states had a smoking rate of less than 20 percent. In 2010, only 8 states had smoking rates below 20 percent.

Zach Bikus, executive assistant with Gallup, said some of the contributing factors of Ohio’s high portion of smokers is that the state ranks 21st in diagnoses of clinical depression, 12th in daily stress, 10th in obesity, 45th in exercise, and 45th in trusting work environments. Health officials said smoking is often linked to education and income, and it is common in Ohio’s large Appalachian region.

Grass-root anti-smoking educational programs educate the population on the risks of smoking and discourage people from starting to smoke, but Ohio health officials stated that the smoking ban does help curb smoking. Unfortunately Ohio expects that the smoking rate will increase this year as the state has lost funding for some anti-tobacco programs.

Many states are facing budget cuts across the board again this year. Ohio has not escaped this fate, but continuing to educate about the dangers of smoking is a must to ensure more lives are not lost due to heart disease, lung disease, or cancer. As long as Ohio is fighting a budget crisis, it is likely to see the number of smokers continue to climb. It is time for some hard-fast budgeting decisions for the state. The cost of smoking to the state and taxpayers only continues to increase.

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