Study: Warren County smoking rates high but falling

Published 10:45 am Tuesday, March 25, 2014

lit cigarette on black background with smoke

Smoking rates for in Warren County are above the national average but slightly below that of the prevalence of smoking statewide, according to a study released Monday.

The habit was measured at 17.2 percent among men and women locally, which landed the county in the upper third among Mississippi’s 82 counties in a review by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. The study covered all 3,007 counties in the U.S.

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In Warren County, it was higher among men, at 19.1 percent. Among women, it was 15.4 percent. Rates were based on data mined from 4.7 million adults in a behavioral risk surveillance system from 1996 to 2012. During that time, smoking decreased 2.9 percent in Warren County, the study showed.

The highest in the state was Tippah County, at 21.8 percent, and the lowest was Oktibbeha, at 10 percent. Broken out for male and female smokers, male smokers were most prevalent in Marshall County, at 25.4 percent; female smokers most so in Tippah, at 20.3 percent. Statewide, the rate was 17.7 percent.

Prevalence rates were at least 15 percent in the state’s counties along the Mississippi River, where few indoor smoking bans are on the books. Anti-smoking advocates lauded the slight decrease in the rate locally.

“We’re all pleased that the smoking rates in Warren County have been reduced,” said Tosha Taylor, of Ridgeland-based Smokefree Mississippi, which has lobbied for smoke-free work environments in public buildings and other places in the state. “There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”

Rates across the South were highest, with West Virginia being the smokiest, at 22.5 percent, followed by Kentucky, at 21.5 percent. States that came in lowest were Utah, at 9 percent, and California, at 9.6 percent.

The study measured the nationwide average at 14 percent.

Nationally, the study says, declining smoking rates over the past decade have been driven by a small group of counties that account for a large share of the population.

The least smoky county in the U.S. was Utah County, Utah, of which Provo is the seat, at 5.7 percent. The most prevalent county was Clay County, Ky., at 30.7 percent, followed by McDowell County, W.Va., at 28 percent.

Three-quarters of men and two-thirds of women live in counties that saw major declines.  But, the study’s authors say, smoking has not decreased in all U.S. counties, as significant disparities within some states cleave along gender, income, and geographical lines.

High smoking rates for women were concentrated in Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Female smoking rates were also high in parts of Alaska, Nevada, Arizona, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Counties with the lowest rates of smoking for women were found in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, California, and the area along the Mexico-Texas border.