FRIDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Even though proven anti-smoking strategies exist, more than 440,000 Americans still die each year from cigarette smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, federal health officials said Friday.
And 8.6 million suffer from serious smoking-related illnesses, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
One reason: the implementation of policies to deter smoking is spotty across the country, officials said.
"We are seeing a large geographic disparity in smoking developing," said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. Regional differences existed 20 years ago, "but nothing like what we are seeing today," he noted.
For example, about twice as many people in Kentucky smoke as in Utah and California, he said. Lung cancer rates are starting to mirror this pattern too, with higher rates in the states with more smokers and faster-declining rates in states with fewer smokers, McAfee said.
The differences are likely based on "the degree to which states have instituted policies that either promote or don't promote keeping kids from starting and encouraging adults to quit," McAfee said.
Some states have strict anti-smoking laws and high cigarette taxes, while other states, such as Texas, have no tobacco laws, he said.
A proven, multi-pronged strategy to curb smoking combines higher tobacco taxes, smoke-free laws, media campaigns, limits on tobacco advertising and promotions and restricted access to tobacco products and programs, the CDC said.
Dollars spent by the states on these programs vary widely, and no state spends the total amount the CDC recommends.
Maine spends about 80 percent of the recommended amount on these programs, while Tennessee spends 1.1 percent of the recommended amount, McAfee said.
The new report is designed for state officials and others to assess sta
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