ALA reports on tobacco use in El Dorado County
New Report is part of the Lung Association’s Disparities in Lung Health Series
The American Lung Association’s latest health disparity report, Cutting Tobacco’s Rural Roots: Tobacco Use in Rural Communities, examines tobacco addiction and exposure to secondhand smoke in rural communities nationwide, particularly among rural youth.
Tobacco use is higher in rural communities than in suburban and urban communities, and smokeless tobacco use is shockingly twice as common. Rural youth also are more likely to use tobacco and to start earlier than urban youth, perpetuating the cycle of tobacco addiction and death and disease.
California is a leader in fighting the harmful effects of tobacco with a statewide smoking prevalence rate of 12.1 percent compared to the national average of 17.1 percent. In rural regions of the state, however, the prevalence is significantly higher with smoking rates as high as 21 percent. The California counties with the highest smoking rates are all rural counties: Tuolumne, Butte, Calaveras, Humboldt, and Merced.
In addition, according to the Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2012 – California Local Grades report, 102 out of 121 rural communities received an F grade for failing to enact strong policies for smokefree outdoor environments, smokefree housing, and reducing sales of tobacco products.
“Tobacco use is often more socially acceptable in rural areas, making it more likely that kids living in these communities will also start to use tobacco,” said Jane Warner, president and CEO, American Lung Association in California. “Leaders and residents in rural communities need to take a stand against the culture of tobacco use as part of life and empower our future generations to have healthy, tobacco-free lives.”
Communities in the El Dorado County are making strides to address the impact of tobacco. In El Dorado County, rural communities have been successful in endorsing smoke-free projects. In 2009 the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution supporting the smoke-free movies campaign.
There are a number of environmental and social factors that contribute to the generational cycle of tobacco use among youth and adults in rural America. Increased tobacco use is associated with lower education levels and lower income, which are both common in rural areas where there may be fewer opportunities for educational and economic advancement. Exposure to secondhand smoke also is higher as rural communities are less likely to have smokefree air laws in place and residents are less likely to refuse to allow smoking in their homes or other indoor places.
For decades, the tobacco industry has used rural imagery, such as the Marlboro Man, to promote its products and appeal to rural audiences. Over the past several years, the tobacco industry’s marketing of smokeless tobacco products has skyrocketed. Sadly, as the tobacco industry spends millions of dollars targeting rural youth, these youth are less likely to be exposed to tobacco counter-marketing campaigns. Rural tobacco users also are less likely to have access to tobacco cessation programs and services to get the help they need to quit.
Tobacco control programs are important in cutting tobacco’s rural roots. In California these programs are funded through a tax on tobacco products, but our state’s tobacco tax rate of $0.87 per pack significantly limits resources that are available to protect rural residents from the harmful effects of tobacco. Promotion of the availability of state quit-smoking counseling services by phone and online sources also lags.
“Clearly, more needs to be done here in El Dorado County to protect public health and end the epidemic of tobacco use in rural communities,” said Marsha Ramos, chair of the Governing Board of the American Lung Association in California. “We are calling on government agencies, the research and funding community, health systems and insurers, community leaders, schools and families to take steps now to cut tobacco’s rural roots.”
The American Lung Association offers smoking cessation resources to help people quit smoking for good:
- Freedom From Smoking is a program that teaches the skills and techniques that have been proven to help hundreds of thousands of adults quit smoking. FFS is available as a group clinic, and online program, and a self-help book.
- Lung HelpLine (1-800-LUNG-USA) offers one-on-one support from registered nurses and respiratory therapists. Individuals have the opportunity to seek guidance on lung health and find out how to participate in and join the Lung Association smoking cessation programs.
- Not-On-Tobacco is a group program designed to help 14- to 19-year-old smokers end their addiction to nicotine. The curriculum consists of ten 50-minute sessions that typically occur once a week for 10 weeks.
In addition to expanding the Lung Association’s capability to provide its programs and services to the rural community, there also are several other action steps to reduce rural tobacco use. These steps are detailed in the full report, and include that state and federal tobacco control programs must make a concerted effort and dedicate funding to reach rural communities; the research community should focus attention and resources on identifying effective cessation treatments for smokeless tobacco use; and school, health and employment systems in rural areas must all implement effective tobacco control strategies including smokefree air policies and access to cessation services.