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Smoking Rates are Down Statewide - but Vulnerable Groups´ Rate Remains High

The Great American Smokeout is Thursday November 19th, a day that challenges people to stop using tobacco products and stay tobacco-free.
This year brings us both good news and bad news about tobacco use in Wisconsin. The good news is that according to new data from the state’s Department of Health Services, overall smoking in Wisconsin sits at an all-time low of 17%. The bad news according to the same data reveals that Wisconsin’s most vulnerable populations are still smoking at alarming rates.
The Department’s 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) reports that the following groups smoke at rates nearly double the state average of 17%:

  • Individuals earning an income of less than $24,000
  • Individuals with less than a high school degree
  • African Americans
  • Individuals enrolled in Medicaid

“The current findings are not surprising because we know the tobacco industry targets specific populations”, says Tobacco Free Columbia Dane County Coalition (TFCDC) Coordinator Ryan Sheahan.  “It’s simply unacceptable that certain groups smoke at a rate double that of the general population.”
In addition to the groups listed above, adults that identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer/Questioning are as much as 40% more likely to smoke than the general public. Also, nearly a third of Wisconsin adults diagnosed with depression currently smoke.
Here in Dane and Columbia County, TFCDC is taking steps to address tobacco-related disparities by increasing efforts to partner with community organizations that serve those populations that are disproportionately burdened by tobacco use.  In addition, TFCDC facilitates a program called Clear Gains, helping property managers create smoke-free multi-unit housing.  Since 2013, TFCDC has helped implement over 25 new policies in Dane County covering 3,000 units and 7,500 residents.
“It’s extremely important that we address these disparities now and into the future.  Who you are, where you come, or your amount of wealth shouldn’t determine your health. Perhaps we should consider redefining wealth – and say that we are wealthy when we are healthy. continued Sheahan
Click here for more about TFCDC’s efforts to address tobacco use in Wisconsin, or call (608) 242-6297. If you use tobacco and want to quit, call the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT NOW for free help and medications.
The 2014 BRFSS fact sheet


Health & Safety