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Health Group Warns Decline in Ohio Smoking Rate Likely to End

May 13, 2009

Columbus, OH – The adult smoking rate dropped to a record low in the Buckeye State in 2008. While many are hailing the news, others are offering a word of caution: It may not last. Health advocates say funding has been slashed for smoking prevention and cessation programs, and a number of bills have been introduced to weaken the statewide public smoking ban.

John Hoctor, chief government relations officer for the American Cancer Society of Ohio, says these are threats to measures that clearly helped to curb smoking among adults and young people.

"It's very important for us to continue to move this trend downward. Only by putting the programs that are important in place will we be able to realize that downward trend over many years, not just for an isolated one or two or three years."

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death, with more than 18,000 Ohioans dying each year from tobacco use. The American Cancer Society and other groups are urging the governor and the legislature to be more proactive about strong tobacco policy.

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds health-care expenses related to tobacco use cost the state of Ohio more than $4 billion each year. Hoctor says in tough economic times, decisionmakers need to look at solutions that promote both physical and economic health.

"The cancer burden is generally later in life for lung cancer. Unfortunately, there's no real early detection out there for it, so prevention is the tool we need to reduce those costs."

According to the CDC, research has shown that implementing strong smoke-free public places policies and funding programs for cessation and prevention are effective measures in reducing smoking rates.

The CDC survey can be found at www.cdc.gov/BRFSS/.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH