Cigarettes Behind One in Four Cancer Deaths in the U.S.

Pack of cigarettes

A recent study found cigarettes kill one in four cancer patients in the U.S. The analysis also revealed smoking kills more people in the South where tobacco laws and policies are less strict. Researchers at the American Cancer Society which conducted the study also found that male smokers in Arkansas were the most likely to die from cancer.

In Arkansas, 40 percent of male cancer patients died because of smoking, marking the highest rate in the nation. In Kentucky, 29 percent of female cancer patients died because they were smokers. The lowest rates of tobacco-related cancer deaths were in Utah. In the Beehive State, just 22 percent of male cancer patients and 11 percent of female cancer patients died because of smoking.

But study investigators said the “human costs” of the habit are high across the entire America regardless of the rankings.

For their study, researchers sifted through data in a 2014 health survey and official data on smoking and cancer deaths. Researchers considered nearly all types of cancer deaths such as those from lung, liver, stomach, kidney, colon, throat, and blood cancers.

Next, study authors searched for data that could reveal how many of those people died because of cigarette smoking. In the end, the team compared the two data sets.

In the U.S., there are 40 million adult smokers even though smoking rates have been decreasing. Moreover, smoking is America’s top killer that can be prevented. Threcentbt study revealed that of 167,000 cancer patients who lost the battle against the disease in 2014, 29 percent were killed by smoking.

Not surprisingly, states with the highest cancer death rates from smoking were in the South. Researchers spotted the lowest rates in the West and North.

The study also revealed that in men, black smokers were more likely to die from smoking (35 percent) than whites (30 percent) and Latinos (27 percent). In women, whites were more likely to die from a smoking-related cancer (21 percent) than blacks (19 percent) and Latinos (12 percent).

Scientists believe the high rates in the South may be linked to lax policies on smoke-free indoors. The U.S. has 14 states with the least strict tobacco control and nine of these states are in the South.

The South also has the nation’s lowest cigarette excise taxes, on average 49 cents. By contrast, in other parts of the U.S., the average excise tax is $1.80. Experts explained the tobacco industry has a strong lobby in these states. Plus, most of the nations’ tobacco crops grow in the South.

What’s more, the South is historically poor which may explain why people take up smoking. A researcher from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, added more context to the findings. She noted that smoking is usually a social norm in the South. So, even if there are indoor smoking bans, that doesn’t prevent smokers from gathering outside buildings and create a thick cloud of smoke.

The findings appeared Oct. 24 in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal.

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