Nov. 17, 2004 Thursday, Nov. 18, is the American Cancer Society's 28th annual Great American Smokeout, a day where all Americans who smoke tobacco are urged to quit for a day as a first step towards quitting for good.
Chances are you won't see much activity in the Virgin Islands, however the territory has the lowest smoking rate in the nation.
An estimated 46 million adults in the United States currently smoke, and approximately half will die prematurely from smoking, according to the American Cancer Society. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women and more than 80 percent of lung cancers are thought to result from smoking. Smoking causes one in five deaths from all causes.
But people in the Virgin Islands have the lowest overall rate of smoking in the nation. A new study published in the Nov. 12 issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found that for the first time, the prevalence of cigarette smoking among adults in a state (Utah) has reached the Healthy People 2010 health objective of less than 12 percent.
Smoking prevalence was even lower for the Virgin Islands. According to the CDC statistics, 14.2 percent of males over age 18 smoke and just 6.6 percent of women, for an overall rate of 10 percent.
The American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout event grew out of a 1971 event in Randolph, Mass., in which Arthur P. Mullaney asked people to give up cigarettes for a day and donate the money they would have spent on cigarettes to a high school scholarship fund. In 1974, Lynn R. Smith, editor of the Monticello Times in Minnesota, spearheaded the state's first D-Day, or Don't Smoke Day. The idea caught on, and on Nov. 18, 1976, the California Division of the American Cancer Society succeeded in getting nearly one million smokers to quit for the day. The first national Great American Smokeout was held in 1977.
According to the CDC, lung cancer accounts for more deaths each year than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined, making lung cancer one of the deadliest cancers. In 2004, approximately 173,770 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer and 160,440 will die from the disease.
A recent study estimated that the cost of treating lung cancer in the United States in 1996 was about $5 billion dollars per year. This made it one of the most expensive cancers to treat in the country, according to the American Cancer Society.
According to the new statistics released by the CDC, in 2003, the median prevalence of current cigarette smoking among adults was 22.1 percent in the 50 states and Washington, D.C. (range: 12.0 percent in Utah to 30.8 percent in Kentucky). Smoking prevalence was higher among men (median: 24.8 percent; range: 14.0 to 33.8 percent) than women (median: 20.3 percent; range: 9.9 to 28.1 percent) in the 50 states and Washington, D.C. Smoking prevalence for both men and women was highest in Kentucky (men: 33.8 percent; women: 28.1 percent) and lowest in Utah (men: 14 percent; women: 9.9 percent). In areas other than the 50 states and D.C., the median prevalence of current cigarette smoking among adults was 13.6% (range: 10.0 percent in the U.S. Virgin Islands to 34 percent on Guam).
For more information on the effects of smoking or for help in quitting, check the American Cancer Society Web site, www.cancer.org.
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