A report released this week by the Oregon Tobacco Prevention and Education Program says the statewide smoking rate is plunging.
The 2009 Tobacco Facts and Laws report says in the past year, the number of packs of cigarettes consumed per capita dropped from 54.9 to 49.8, or by 5.1 packs.
That is the lowest number since the TPEP program began in 1996, when annual consumption of cigarettes was 92 packs per capita.
"This is encouraging news, especially as the state is dealing with a new strain of seasonal flu," said Dr. Mel Kohn, head of the Public Health Division for Oregon. "Smokers are much more vulnerable to the H1N1 swine flu and all other forms of influenza. The wise investments we have made in tobacco prevention are going to help keep people safer.
"A total of 22 percent of all Oregon deaths are attributable to tobacco use," Kohn says. "There is still work to be done to reduce tobacco use and keep Oregonians healthy."
There has been an increase in the number of households with a rule prohibiting smoking in the house. Eighty-nine percent of Oregonians say that no one is allowed to smoke anywhere inside their home. Ninety-two percent say that no one smoked in their home in the past 30 days.
"With the passage of the Smokefree Workplace Law, which prohibits smoking in almost all workplaces in Oregon, the main point of exposure to the toxins in secondhand smoke is in the home," Kohn says. "This finding shows that Oregonians understand the danger of secondhand smoke and are taking important steps to reduce exposure. Since secondhand smoke is a factor in many children's illnesses including upper respiratory disease, asthma and SIDS, a rule prohibiting smoking in 89 percent of Oregon households is very good news."
Steve Buckstein, a senior policy analyst with the Cascade Policy Institute, a libertarian think tank, said he hopes talk of nonsmoking homes doesn't lead to legislative attempts to ban indoor smoking on private property.
"That is a total infringement on individual liberty," said Buckstein, who also opposes the ban on workplace smoking, which he views as an infringement on private property rights.
Buckstein and other civil libertarians think tobacco should be treated just like any other product and the government should get out of the business of persuading people to either smoke or not smoke.
"What's the next thing?" he said. "Going after people who eat fast food? Or inhibit you from playing certain sports? The government is turning into a nanny state where they're going to treat you like a child."
Also included in the report are data indicating that 80 percent of smokers in Oregon want to quit and 51 percent quit for one day or longer in an attempt to quit. In fiscal 2008, more than 6,200 smokers in Oregon called the Oregon Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW for help to quit. "The Oregon Tobacco Quit Line is an excellent service that TPEP offers to Oregon's smokers," Kohn says. "Due to funding considerations, we are able to provide this assistance to only a fraction of the smokers in Oregon who want to quit."
The Oregon Tobacco Quit Line is an evidence-based telephone coaching program that helps smokers develop a quit plan, identify triggers and refers them to available resources.
Tobacco's Toll on Oregon
While tobacco use rates have dropped in recent years, tobacco continues to take a tremendous toll on Oregonians.
· Fewer than half a million Oregon adults smoke cigarettes, or 17 percent of the population.
· 111,848 Oregonians use smokeless tobacco.
· 22 percent of all Oregon deaths are attributable to tobacco use.
· Oregonians are three times more likely to die from tobacco-related causes than from alcohol, motor vehicle accidents, firearms and illicit use of drugs combined.
· Tobacco use costs Oregonians more than $2.2 billion annually in direct medical costs and lost productivity due to early death. Although, in the long run, healthy people actually cost the health system more money than smokers, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control, as they tend to live about 10 years longer. An economist for Vanderbilt University, Kip Viscusi, studied net costs of smoking-related spending and savings. He found that each pack of cigarettes smoked saved 32 cents in health care spending.