Smoking rate among adults remains high in Alaska

Posted: Monday, February 02, 2004

ANCHORAGE - Alaska's rate of adult cigarette smoking is the second highest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the CDC list of the top five smoking states, Alaska is the only one that's not a tobacco grower.

The report, based on a 2002 survey, says that nearly 30 percent of adult Alaskans smoke cigarettes. The CDC defines smokers as people who said they have smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetimes and who currently smoke every day or some days.

The U.S. average for states, according to the report, is less than 25 percent.

Kentucky at 32.6 percent was tops on the list, followed by Alaska at 29.4, West Virginia at 28.4 and Tennessee at 27.8 percent.

Kentucky and Tennessee are two of the nation's largest tobacco producers, according to the Agricultural Policy Analysis Center at the University of Tennessee.

Alaska's rank in the CDC report did not surprise Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, director of the chronic disease program in the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

"It really highlights a big problem we have in Alaska," Eberhart-Phillips said. "I didn't know where we ranked but figured we're up there."

The rate of adult smoking varies from year to year, and if a three-year average were used, the state probably would come in a little lower, he said.

But the rate is still high, Eberhart-Phillips said, and there's no getting around that the state's anti-smoking campaign is not reaching certain sectors of the population.

A decade ago, smoking among Alaska's youths was historically high, Eberhart-Phillips said. Those youngsters are now in their 20s and 30s and still puffing.

The 18- to 24-year-old segment has the highest rate of Alaska smokers. Men in that age group who smoke are 38 percent of their population, according to Eberhart-Phillips.

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