Alaska Editorial: State's smoking report has encouraging news

This editorial first appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

The statistics in the recent state report on smoking are good, but the numbers also illustrate why the trend isn’t even better: Tobacco is powerfully addicting.

The smoking rate in Alaska dropped dramatically between 1996 and 2011, according to the most recent update of “Alaska Tobacco Facts,” the state Department of Health and Social Service’s survey of all things tobacco.

The numbers of cigarettes consumed per adult Alaskan fell by 55 percent during that time. Almost a billion cigarettes were sold in Alaska in 1996. In 2011, the number had dropped by 433 million.

Many smokers vehemently defend their right to smoke. However, most acknowledge that their habit isn’t good for them. And three out of four agree that other people shouldn’t be subjected to the smoke, according to the survey.

In fact, if smokers had their way, the rate of tobacco use would have dropped even more rapidly in Alaska, the state found. Almost three out of every five smokers tried to quit during the past year.

Unfortunately, the path out of the habit is made far more rocky by the nature of nicotine. The body takes to it quickly and doesn’t want to let go.

Today, fewer than one quarter of Alaskas adults smoke. That number is likely to continue to drop; the survey found that only 14 percent of high school students smoked in 2011. That’s a 60 percent decline from 1995. The kids have it right.

It’s a free country, but smoking isn’t free. The costs in cash and health are high. Its good to see so many people are escaping the habit, and we wish much success to those who haven’t yet succeeded.


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