The good news is that tobacco smoking is declining globally, including in the United States. The bad news is that about 16% of the adults in the country still smoke regularly, and more than 16 million Americans suffer from a smoking-related condition.
What makes cigarettes so addictive is the nicotine in the tobacco. “Cigarettes are the most efficient drug-delivery device ever made,” said Adam Goldstein, M.D., M.P.H, director of Tobacco Intervention Programs at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. “Nicotine is the hardest addiction to quit.” It enters the nervous system within seconds, attaching itself to receptors in the brain that release dopamine, which is commonly knowns as “the feel good hormone,” Goldstein explained.
On average, 11.7% of Americans smoke every day, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Cigarette smoking is highest in the South and Midwest.
There appears to be a connection between the number of people in a state who smoke and the tax on cigarettes — the higher the percentage of smokers, the lower the tax.
Adverse smoking-related health outcomes are also more common in the states with the highest smoking rates. The three states with the highest smoking rates — West Virginia, Kentucky and Arkansas — are the same three states with the highest incidence of heart disease, the highest lung cancer death rates, and highest rates of heart attack history. All three states are in the top five of states with the most residents who have had a stroke and report being in poor health.
To identify the states with the highest percentage of smokers, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data. Respondents are people over 18 years of age who report smoking at least every day in 2017. The additional data about the rate of lung cancer deaths are from 2015 and the excise tax rates are as of Jan. 1, 2018. The measure of people in poor health includes adults who report 14 or more days in the last month during which they felt sick.
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