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Washington’s Adult Smoking Rate Declines Slightly to New Low

Armen Hareyan's picture

A new state survey shows the adult smoking rate in Washington is continuing to go down, yet the decline is slowing. When the Department of Health began its comprehensive Tobacco Prevention and Control Program in 2000, the adult smoking rate was 22.4 percent. The most recent survey shows the smoking rate has decreased slightly from 17 percent in 2006 to a new low of 16.5 percent in 2007.

At the same time, rates remain higher among people with low income and low education. The smoking rate for people with low income is 32 percent; the rate for people with a high school diploma or less is 27 percent. Both are significantly higher than the state’s overall smoking rate of 16.5 percent. The health department is working on ways to reach these groups, including providing extra quit support and medications.

“Our state’s commitment to tobacco prevention is making a big difference. People are quitting smoking and Washington is healthier because of it,” said Governor Chris Gregoire. “The numbers also show we have some big challenges. We must find ways to reach those who are not getting the message that help is available.”

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As of July 1, 2008, people on Medicaid have extra support to help them quit, including prescription medications written by their doctor. To receive the benefit, Medicaid clients can call the toll-free Washington State Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-877-2NO-FUME in Spanish). Already the quit line is receiving about 19 calls a day from Medicaid clients.

“State quit line services were recently expanded to specifically help low income smokers,” said Secretary of Health Mary Selecky. “Now everyone on Medicaid has free access to counseling, nicotine patches or gum, and prescription medications, if they need it. I know quitting smoking is tough. We’re trying to provide people the help and support they need to succeed.”

The Tobacco Quit Line provides some level of quit support for all Washington residents, including counseling, help with a personalized quit plan, and at least a two-week supply of nicotine patches or gum. More than 105,000 Washingtonians have already called the quit line for help.

Innovative Web-based tools are also being implemented to help all tobacco users quit. A new interactive feature on Quitline.com allows people to develop a printable quit plan by answering questions about their tobacco use and their personal reasons for quitting.

Washington’s 25 percent drop in adult smoking since 2000 translates to 240,000 fewer people smoking and an estimated savings of $2.1 billion in future healthcare costs. The state remains well below the national smoking rate of 19.8 percent.