The U.S. adult smoking rate is at an all-time low, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
Even still, Kentucky’s smoking rate remains high compared to the rest of the U.S., and state organizations continue to try to gain support for a statewide smoking ban.
The Kentucky Hospital Association on Thursday announced a renewed support of smoke-free workplaces and public places throughout the state. They want all 130 hospitals in the state to adopt tobacco-free campuses.
KHA is making the call as a part of the Smoke-Free Kentucky campaign dedicated to making the state smoke-free. KHA President Michael Rust said the association’s top priority is improving the health of Kentucky residents.
Kentucky has the highest smoking rate in the country at 30.2 percent, and the state’s death rate from lung cancer is 46 percent higher than the national rate.
“Our member hospitals are heavily focusing on wellness, and we believe one of the real key areas in that statewide is having a smoke-free Kentucky,” Rust said.
Betsy Janes, coordinator of the Smoke-Free Kentucky campaign, said some Kentucky cities have adopted smoke-free policies, but a large majority of municipalities have not.
“When it comes to our problem with tobacco in Kentucky, we’re sort of all in it together. Seventy percent of the state is left behind with no smoke-free policy, which means that many more people are getting sick and we are all paying for the cost of that,” she said.
And Kentuckians aren’t just paying with their health, it’s also hitting pockets.
Annual healthcare costs caused by smoking is $1.92 billion in Kentucky, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The organization also reports that Medicaid covers $487 million of healthcare costs due to smoking in Kentucky. Smoking also caused $2.30 billion in productivity losses.
Rust said he views hospitals in Kentucky as leaders in working with the public to inform them of the hazards of smoking.
“We are also focusing on partnerships with public health departments, local schools and educational systems, to start very early working with kindergartners and on up on the importance of having a smoke-free community,” he said.
Janes said 2015 presents a unique opportunity to get a smoke-free law approved in the state legislature since it’s a non-election and non-budget year. She also said Gov. Steve Beshear is a supporter of a smoke-free bill.
“We just see sort of the stars aligning in 2015 to execute a smoke-free bill,” she said.
The cigarette smoking rate among adults in the U.S. dropped from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 17.8 percent in 2013, according to the CDC.
That is the lowest prevalence of adult smoking since the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey began keeping records in 1965. The report also shows the number of cigarette smokers dropped from 45.1 million in 2005 to 42.1 million in 2013, despite the increasing population in the U.S.