King County Smoking Rate Drops
The rate of smoking among King County adults continued to drop in 2008 to a new low of 10.6%, or 158,000 adults 18 and over. The rate of smoking has nearly halved since 2001, when King County began receiving funds to address tobacco from the Master Settlement Agreement between states and tobacco companies. The King County rate remains lower than Washington State's, which dropped to 15.3%.
Despite this success, 2006-2008 data show the disparities that remain in smoking in King County. The rate of smoking is highest for people who make the smallest income and have the least education. People with income between $15,000 and $25,000 smoke at more than double the overall county rate – 23.4%. Those without a high school diploma smoke at a rate of 26.2%, and young people (18-24 years) smoke at a rate of 19%.
"Along with policies that reduce where people are exposed to secondhand smoke and stop sales of tobacco to minors, we need to continue to develop strategies to reduce smoking among those with the highest smoking rates," said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health - Seattle & King County.
Public Health's Tobacco Prevention Program has trained over 60 low-income health clinics and service agencies on how to help their clients quit tobacco. The training includes how to talk with clients about tobacco and how to connect them with resources to quit. King County also supports some clinics and agencies with free nicotine patches for clients.
Tobacco Prevention grants have created resources for quitting for those most likely to smoke and least likely to have help to stop in King County, though this year the Tobacco Prevention Program lost 20% of its funding. As a result, the program is discontinuing the community grants it provided to partners to promote quitting. The plan is to continue to have a comprehensive local program on a tight budget, while looking to refill funding in the future.