The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

March 25, 2014

Smoking rates decline in Clinton County

By Scott Levine
Clinton Herald

CLINTON — In 1996, Clinton County residents smoked cigarettes more on a daily basis than any other county in Iowa.

More than 26 percent of Clinton County's population smoked cigarettes in 1996, giving the area the highest rate among 99 counties in the state of Iowa.

Now, throughout Iowa, the habit is dwindling in every county, and this area is no different.

A new report from the University of Washington charted smoking rates for every county in the United States from 1996 to 2012. That 26.08 percent smoking rate from 1996 was down to 17.63 percent in 2012, an annualized rate of change of 2.45 percent.

And while Clinton County's rate in 1996 was more than 4 percentage points higher than the average county's smoking rate, the percentage has been shaved to 2.3 percent higher than the average smoking rate. The county is now ranked 74th out of 99 counties in smoking rate.

Community Health Supervisor Michele Cullen said hopefully that means some of the local campaigns have been effective.

"We don't want to take the right away, but we don't want it to be easy," Cullen said. "We have an unwritten goal of not making smoking the norm."

The pace of change is something that is sitting well with health officials.

Clinton County's annual drop in smoking represents the 12th-fastest decline in the state of Iowa. Neighboring Jackson County also registered a high annualized rate of change at 2.19 percent. Jackson County went from having a 24.14 percent smoking rate in 1996 to a 17.01 percent rate in 2012.

"It's about making smoking not as appealing," Cullen said. "Before when you looked at media, you always saw things like the Marlboro Man, and different ads that played into that and making it sexy. Now there isn't anything sexy about smoking. It's more of an inconvenience."

In Iowa, the counties with the lowest smoking rates featured more urban areas, including Story and Johnson counties, which feature Iowa State University and the University of Iowa, respectively, and have rates less than 10 percent.

The counties with the highest rates tended to be rural areas, with Wapello County having the highest smoking rate at 20.18 percent. Each county in Iowa saw a decrease in smoking rates during the report's timeline.

Whiteside County in Illinois also saw a decrease in smoking rates from 1996 to 2012. The rate was 25.44 percent in 1996 and was 17.74 percent in 2012, with an annualized rate of change of 2.25 percent.

Researchers used county-level data of cigarette smoking from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which is a telephone survey on a large number of health-related behaviors and conditions for the adult population.