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County Health District is on a burning quest for change
by Jill Lufrano
Apr 04, 2012 | 982 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune File - The Washoe County Health District is promoting a variety of messages this week for National Public Health Week, including encouraging Nevadans to quit using tobacco. More than one-fifth of the Silver State’s population smokes.
Tribune File - The Washoe County Health District is promoting a variety of messages this week for National Public Health Week, including encouraging Nevadans to quit using tobacco. More than one-fifth of the Silver State’s population smokes.
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RENO — Nevadans can brag about many aspects of their Silver State, but one statistic may leave its citizens fuming as to why they are so far ahead of the nation in one particular area.

Silver State smokers total more than one-fifth of the population — or 21.5 percent — compared to the national average of 17.3 percent.

As part of Washoe County’s observance of National Public Health Week, April 2-8, the county Health District and the American Public Health Association reminds the public that tobacco, drugs and alcohol kill thousands of Americans each year.

On that note, the county offered more statistics to mull.

According to 2010 numbers, people who spark up on a regular basis in Washoe County make up 18.2 percent of adults between 18 and 64 years of age, according to Erin Dixon, the chronic disease prevention coordinator for the Washoe County Health District.

Residents of Utah are the least likely to burn regularly, as smokers make up only 12.1 percent of the population, according to the latest Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention numbers from 2007.

Many pundits have offered answered over the years as to why it is so difficult to quit the dreaded 20-packs. At one point in the 1980s, it was reported in the New York Times that scientists found nicotine was as addictive as heroin, cocaine or amphetamines. For most people, nicotine was more addictive than alcohol.

Dixon offered her own reasons as to why Nevadans smoke more than others.

“Research proves that if you have really good programs, an educated public, resources to help quit, higher tobacco taxes — and you have a strong smoking ban — if you have all of those in place, smoking rates are lower,” Dixon said.

Although Nevada does have a smoking ban in place, it is not nearly strong enough to assist in lowering the overall percentage of regular smokers, Dixon said.

“We’ve lost some tobacco prevention funding and we have relatively low tobacco taxes,” she said “Those are some of the reasons smoking rates are higher than in other states.”

Washoe County released statistics this week that showed cigarette smoking continues to cause some 443,000 deaths each year, costs some $96 billion in medical expenditures and $97 billion in productivity losses in the U.S.

Every day, nearly 4,000 young people try their first cigarette, according to a release by Phil Ulibarri, spokesman from the county Health District. Some 1,000 will become daily smokers.

“More than 80 percent of adult cigarette smokers will start before their 18th birthday,” he said. “Children of parents who smoke are twice as likely to become smokers themselves and more than half of all children in the United States are exposed to secondhand smoke on a regular basis.”

County Health Officer Dr. Joseph Iser supports the call to improve the statistics for the better so people can live longer and healthier lives.

“Too many people in our country are dying from tobacco, alcohol and drug use whens impel changes in lifestyle, daily routines and policy changes could save thousands of lives.”

To find help in cessation of smoking, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. For more information about National Public Health Week activities and tobacco cessation, visit www. GetHealthyWashoe.com.
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