I already knew this, but I’m glad to see USA Today do a story on it.
It’s a fact that the highest rates of lung cancer are in the Deep South — where there are few indoor smoking bans and cigarette taxes are ridiculously low.
From the USA Today article:
States hit hardest by the ravages of tobacco are often the least aggressive at hitting back, a USA TODAY analysis found. So a deadly culture of smoking lingers, which officials say is fueled relentlessly by tobacco companies targeting minorities and the poor.
• Big tobacco-growing states such as Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia have the poorest and sickest residents, yet spend less than 20% of the federal government’s recommended minimum for tobacco education and enforcement.
• States with the most smokers weaken their own tobacco control efforts with cigarette taxes of 60 cents or less, compared with $3.75 in Rhode Island and $4.35 in New York.
• Hard-hit states also do the least to restrict smoking in places such as restaurants and workplaces and impose penalties of $100 or less on businesses selling tobacco to children, compared with $10,000 in the most aggressive states.
I like to show this phenomena graphically. Here is a map of the states with the highest rates of lung cancer. Darker is bad:
Now, here is a map of the states with the lowest cigarette taxes. Red means low taxes:
Wow, it’s absolutely amazing the correlation, isn’t it? Actually, it really is, I’m not trying to be snarky.
Like I said, I’ve been aware of this correlation for some time, Now throw in the other factor of states in the Deep South spending little on tobacco education. Again, I’ve been aware of this for some time, the USA Today article speaks about how little states spend from the $280 billion Master Settlement Agreement on tobacco education, using that money instead to balance their state budgets (In USA Today’s word — “fix potholes.”).
Also, not a coincidence. Where is most of the tobacco in the U.S. grown? In the Deep South.
From USA Today:
Critics say one reason some states aren’t very aggressive is that tobacco is woven tightly into their communities even as the number of tobacco farms continues to shrink. “You can look at a map of tobacco control policies and see that every state that has weaker policies is a tobacco-growing state,” says Yvonne Hunt, who heads the tobacco control research branch of the National Cancer Institute.
Sitting in a cancer education booth at a free health clinic in southwest Virginia this summer, pharmacy student Anesa Hughes tried to explain why smoking is so common in her area. It’s “such a cultural thing,” says Hughes, who walked behind a tiller on her family’s tobacco farm starting at age 8. “It’s like we’re in a time warp.”
It’s a self-destructive culture. A mentality that “tobacco has always been a part of our culture.” Well, so has racism … does that somehow make it a good thing? These states have the highest smoking rates — Kentucky and West Virginia have been the highest for a while now, and places like Alabama and Mississippi aren’t far behind. People literally killing themselves and stubbornly clinging to the idea that somehow the right to kill themselves correlates to “Liberty,” or something… because their cigarette taxes are low and they can light up pretty much anywhere they want, especially outside the big cities. It’s a frustrating, exasperating reality. “Maybe I’m killing myself, but ain’t no Obama telling me what to do…” or some such thing.
As an aside, most of these Southern states also lead the U.S. in rates of diabetes. Part of that is smoking, it’s now known that smoking is a factor in causing diabetes, part of it is poor diet, obesity, lack of health care, high rates of poverty, etc. The sickest part of the country … which does little or nothing about it. And the people there keep voting for the people who do little or nothing about it.