Maybe we should call Missouri the “Smoke Me” state.
Whether it’s at home or at work or at the convenience store checkout counter, Missourians live in a state that is one of the most tobacco-friendly places in the nation. That’s according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that ranks states on their tobacco control efforts.
At just 17 cents per pack, Missouri has the second-lowest state tobacco tax, after South Carolina, the CDC statistics show.
Missouri workers are more likely to be exposed tokent cigarettes than any workers outside of Nevada. And Missouri families are more likely than others to welcome smoking in their homes — 69.5 percent of households in the state maintain no smoking rules, compared with the national average of 77.6 percent.
This nonchalance doesn’t come without cost. An estimated 307 adults out of every 100,000 in Missouri die each year due to smoking. Only nine states had higher rates.
The CDC’s numbers for Kansas were nothing to be proud of either, but its rates of adult smoking and smoking-related deaths were closer to the national averages than those of Missouri.
So what keeps Missouri smoking?
“There’s a real lack of political will and a lack of investment in tobacco control,” said Douglas Luke, director of Washington University’s Center for Tobacco Policy Research in St. Louis. “The shame is that it costs us both in money and lives.”
Missouri doesn’t have a clean indoor air law, Luke said. That leaves many workers in bars, restaurants and casinos exposed to second-hand smoke.
And Missouri spends just 1.7 percent of the amount the CDC recommends for tobacco prevention programs such as anti-smoking media and education campaigns. Only Mississippi and Tennessee spent less.
“It’s not that we’re trying and failing,” Luke said. “It’s that we’re not even trying.”
Kit Wagar, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, acknowledged that more could be done to discourage smoking. But there have been successes, he said.
“Nobody here is under any illusions that we’ve done enough. This is a huge public health problem,” Wagar said. “We’re working as hard as we can with the resources we have. We think we are making progress.”
Missouri has successful prevention programs in schools, Wagar said.
And when the state teamed up with the Royals and Cardinals last year for anti-smoking public service announcements, calls by smokers to the state’s “quit line” more than doubled.
Luke is heartened by the growing number of localities in Missouri, such as Kansas City, Kirksville and Columbia, that have enacted indoor smoking bans.
“I have a lot of hope things will continue to improve and there will be discussion of doing something statewide,” Luke said. “Do we want to be known as one of the most unhealthy places in the country?”
- Appeals court upholds KC’s smoking ban
- Time for states to clear the air: Smoking bans save money and lives
- Victory for nonsmokers: Court upholds KC’s law
- Report: Missouri ranks near bottom in cigarette tax, near top in adult tobacco use
- Study raises concerns about outdoor second-hand smoke