If the United States smoked at the same rate as the state of Utah, which has the nation’s lowest smoking rate, there would be nearly 22 million fewer smokers in this country, based on data collected by 24/7 Wall St. from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Though the U.S. smoking rate has declined considerably from half a century ago, nearly 39 million Americans over the age of 18, or 15.5% of the population, still smoke, according to the CDC.
Smoking rates vary between states, from nearly 25% in Kentucky and West Virginia to 9% in Utah. Utah is the only state whose smoking rate is less than 10%. Similarly, the lung cancer diagnosis rate ranges from 91.4 cases per 100,000 people in Kentucky and 77.6 cases per 100,000 people in West Virginia — the highest in the nation — to just 25.6 cases per 100,000 people in Utah, the lowest.
Smoking-related illnesses cost the U.S. economy $300 billion a year, according to CDC estimates. About $170 billion of that total are direct medical care costs. Most of the remainder are expenses related to lost productivity as a result of premature death and exposure to secondhand smoke.
24/7 Wall St. examined smoking rates in the United States that were provided by the CDC to determine how many fewer smokers there would be in this country if the smoking rate was the same as Utah’s. While it would be difficult to replicate Utah’s conditions in other states, decisions such as enacting more stringent smoking laws, as well as raising excise taxes on a pack of cigarettes, will undoubtedly lower smoking rates, and lead to more positive health outcomes.