New survey information shows there are nearly 10,000 fewer smokers in Arkansas since the beginning of the Arkansas Department of Health's (ADH) Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program in 2002. When the program started in 2002, 25.1 percent adults smoked in the state; more current data show that those numbers have decreased to approximately 20.7 percent.
Dr. Paul Halverson, director of the ADH and state health officer said, "We are encouraged by these results." Overcoming tobacco addiction is one of the hardest things anyone can do -- especially for adults that have been smoking for a long time. We applaud these Arkansans who have beaten addiction and celebrate with them as they lead healthier lives. However, we still have more work to do as we have many Arkansans that would benefit from a tobacco-free lifestyle."
"This news is also good for Arkansas's economic health," Gov. Mike Beebe said. "When fewer people smoke, we have healthier employees, healthier families and less demand for health-care services. It all adds up to a healthier workforce, which will help us in our efforts to attract new business and industry to Arkansas."
The ADH Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program (TPCP) funded through the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, works to reduce tobacco use in Arkansas. Through community and school prevention programs, a media and public relations campaign known as Stamp Out Smoking, and cessation services for tobacco users looking to quit, TPCP continues to see the positive effects of its efforts.
"It's rewarding to see our hard work pay off with the release of these new numbers," said Dr. Carolyn Dresler, ADH Director of the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program. "It takes all of our partners working together to achieve these kinds of results and through youth prevention efforts, quitting services like the Arkansas Tobacco Quitline and policy changes like the tobacco tax, we feel confident tobacco use in Arkansas will continue to decline."
Arkansas has made significant strides over the past year to provide more services for tobacco users who want to quit and Arkansans have overwhelmingly responded. Since 2008 the toll-free Arkansas Tobacco Quitline has received more than 22,000 calls. The Quitline, found at 1-800-QUIT-NOW, now offers free motivational coaching with a QuitCoach by phone or online and free medications while supplies last.
Alberta Faye Powell quit smoking on Oct. 20, 2008, with the help of Quitline. She said that she was successful because of the combination of the nicotine patches, coaching and "having the attitude that you are ready to quit." She said the coaches provided assistance in a professional manner and assured her that it was OK to be honest if she failed and to start again.
While helping tobacco users quit smoking provides maximum benefits for the state and the individual, it is equally as important to ensure that youth never start. Arkansas has been successful in continuing decline in youth smoking despite national statistics remaining stagnant. In Arkansas, youth smoking has decreased from 34.7 percent in 2001 to 20.7 percent in 2007.
A decline in tobacco use in the state benefits all Arkansans. It means lower health care costs, due to smoking-related illness, less exposure to second hand smoke and longer life expectancy resulting in more time with loved ones. Smoking is a major cause of heart disease, stroke, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Since the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program began in 2002 the number of hospital admissions in Arkansas for heart attack, stroke, chronic bronchitis and emphysema has declined progressively each year resulting in substantial savings in healthcare costs.
For more information on SOS programs or how one can get involved in helping Arkansas become a healthier state, visit stampoutsmoking. com (to quit smoking call 800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669.)