Kentucky is part of a “Tobacco Nation,” a nickname for the dozen states where smoking rates are the highest in the country. A new report from the Truth Initiative, a group established as part of the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement, highlights the swath of contiguous states that are bucking the national trend of steep declines in smoking. Robin Koval, who heads the Truth Initiative, says such a significant portion of the country shouldn’t be left behind as national progress is made to curb tobacco use.
The report says 22-percent of adults in “Tobacco Nation” smoke compared with 15 percent in the rest of the U-S, lighting up about 500 more cigarettes each year. About one in four Kentucky adults smokes regularly.
Research shows the tobacco epidemic has a disproportionate impact on people at lower income levels. According to the report, “Tobacco Nation” residents aren’t as well-off financially as the rest of the country, and generally suffer poorer health outcomes. Koval says smoking rates in these states are some of the highest in the world.
In the past two decades, the report shows the states that make up “Tobacco Nation” have received just over 31-billion dollars in payments from the Tobacco Master Settlement for prevention and control efforts. But the money is often diverted by state legislatures for other priorities. Hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths are attributed to tobacco use, and Koval says these states are not doing enough.
Kentucky is 50th among states in the America’s Health Rankings report for the percentage of adults who smoke.