A report on smoking by the United States Centers for Disease Control indicates that reductions in the prevalence of smoking could prevent millions of premature deaths for Americans.
Tobacco use in southeastern Utah, including Carbon County, have the higher smoking rates for adults and students than any other area in the state.
About 15 percent of Salt Lake County residents use tobacco, notes the Southeastern Utah Health District. But 19.1 percent of southeastern Utah residents are tobacco users.
While Salt Lake County numbers dropped from 17.2 percent for 1995 through 1998 to 15 percent in 2001 through 2003, the percentage of southeastern Utah residents remained the same during the designated period.
An even higher 21 percent of students in grades nine through 12 in the local area use tobacco. The number is more than twice the percentage of students in Salt Lake County, which is just 9.2 percent.
Southeastern and central Utah counties are the only two areas of the state with as high of tobacco use percentage. Central Utah has a lower rate than the southeastern region with 17.4 percent of students using tobacco.
The number of stores selling tobacco to minors during compliance checks decreased in Salt Lake County from 16.3 percent in 2001 to 6.9 percent in 2004.
However, the number increased from 12.3 percent to 14.5 percent in southeastern Utah.
Information released on July 1 was published in an issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The report covered smoking-attributed mortality, years of potential life lost and productivity losses.
In the report, an estimated cost of a $92 billion was attributed to lost productivity from 1997 to 2001 for the U.S. The estimate was up about $10 billion from the annual mortality related productivity losses for the years 1995 through 1999.
During 1997 through 2001, there was an average $61.9 billion in smoking-attributable productivity losses for men and $30.5 billion for women in the U.S.
The CDC report estimating productivity losses understated the total costs of smoking because many of the expenses to employers were excluded from the data.
Costs associated with attributable health care expenditures, smoking-related disability, employee absenteeism and secondhand smoke-attributable disease morbidity and mortality were not included.
This lost productivity estimate combined with smoking-related health care costs, a reported $75.5 billion in 1998, exceeds $167 billion per year in the United States.
In Utah alone, tobacco use costs taxpayers $273 million in health care costs and $244 million in productivity losses.
The findings also indicated that from 1997 to 2001, an estimated 438,000 premature deaths occurred each year as a result of smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.
This figure is lower than the average annual estimate of approximately 440,000 deaths during 1995 through 1999. The CDC attributes this drop to recent changes in the list of smoking-attributable diseases and declines in the prevalence of smoking.
The report also stated that smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causing many diseases and reducing quality of life and life expectancy. In a new report by the Surgeon General, the list of smoking-attributable diseases now includes stomach cancer and acute myeloid leukemia and excludes hypertension.
During 1997 to 2001, smoking resulted in an estimated annual average of 259,494 deaths among men and 178,408 deaths among women in the U.S. Of those deaths, 39.8 percent or 158,529 were attributed to cancer, 34.7 percent or 137,979 were attributed to cardiovascular diseases and 25.5 percent or 101,454 to respiratory diseases.
Three specific leading causes of smoking-attributable death were lung cancer, 123,836 deaths, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, 90,582 deaths, and ischemic heart disease, 86,801 deaths.
Deaths attributable to exposure to secondhand smoke is a major concern for the CDC, who estimated 38,112 lung cancer and heart disease deaths attributed to secondhand smoke annually.
Another major concern of the CDC is the infant deaths caused by smoking during pregnancy. An estimated 910 infant deaths are annually attributed to smoking during pregnancy for the 1997 through 2001 time period. Southeastern Utah counties have an overwhelming 14.1 percent of pregnant women who regularly use tobacco, while Salt Lake County only has 9.2 percent.
An annual estimate of 918 deaths are also included in the CDC report for deaths from smoking-attributable fires.
The report also estimated a 3.3 million years of potential life lost for men and 2.2 million for women annually. This estimate excluded burn deaths and adult deaths from secondhand smoke.
The number of smoking-attributable deaths were understated by the CDC in the report because of estimates of deaths attributable to cigar smoking, pipe smoking and smokeless tobacco use were excluded.
The CDC states that because investments in prevention programs have produced larger and faster reduction in cigarette consumption, increased investments are needed to achieve a greater health impact. The implementation of comprehensive tobacco-control programs is a proved means of reducing smoking prevalence and related mortality and health care costs.
An estimated 88.9 percent of adults have been exposed to anti-tobacco media in the past month, the Southeastern Utah Health Department determined in 2003.
The health department also stated that 132,000 people have been reached through Quit Line marketing through newspaper and movie advertisements in the area.
Compared with Salt Lake County percentages, Southeastern Utah still lags behind while 94.8 percent of Salt Lake County residents are exposed to anti-tobacco media.