Tobacco use is relatively high in Louisiana, as noted in the United Health Foundation Louisiana Snapshot. Almost one quarter (23.4 percent) of adults in Louisiana smoke, ranking the state as 43rd in the nation in smoking prevalence.
Tobacco use kills more people each year than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drug use, murders and suicides combined. Yet, it is the single most preventable cause of death in Louisiana and the United States.
Smokers not only put their own lives at risk, but they also affect the lives of people around them. Secondhand smoke (a mixture of smoke from a lighted cigarette or cigar and smoke that is exhaled by a smoker) contains over 4,000 chemicals, 60 of which have been shown to cause cancer. The amount of exposure to secondhand smoke that is safe, if any, is unknown. Nonsmokers who live with smokers in homes, especially children, are at the greatest risk for suffering negative health effects, which include pneumonia, bronchitis and asthma.
According to the 2005 Louisiana Health Report Card, more than 79,000 high school and 28,000 middle school students in Louisiana smoke. Tobacco companies target youth, because the younger one is when he/she begins to smoke, the more likely he/she is to remain a smoker as an adult.
The best way to avoid the consequences of smoking is to never start smoking. However, reduction in disease rates among current smokers is best achieved through cessation. Smoking cessation is known to reduce the risk of lung cancer, other cancers, cardiovascular disease and chronic lung disease.
For information about LPHI's work in tobacco prevention and control, visit The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL) website.