Have you seen an anti-smoking ad recently? Odds are, you probably have not, and if you have seen them, there most likely haven’t been many. About twenty years ago, anti-smoking campaigns were extremely prevalent due to the high numbers of lung cancer deaths related to the habit. As a result, both smoking and lung cancer have declined significantly. At least, they’ve declined in most places around the US. Unfortunately, statistics are now showing that in the south and some parts of the Midwest, lung cancer among women is once again on the rise.
According to the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the risk of dying from lung cancer was highest in women born in the 1930s, but that rate dropped in the following decades. Among the baby boomer generation, that rate has dropped further or remained low, except for in southern and Midwestern states. For example, in Alabama, lung cancer deaths increased from 6.9% to 10.7% as opposed to rates in California which fell from 6.1% to 2.8%. These statistics came about after a 23 state comparison meant to find out the current rates of lung cancer in connection to smoking. There is much speculation as to the causes of these differences which appear to be regional issues. Some experts believe it is due to a letting up of anti-smoking campaigns and strategies like cigarette taxation. Others though, feel that a study on the availability and cost of health care for lung cancer treatment in those areas is needed to determine if that may be the actual cause.
No matter the reason for these regional differences, there is obviously still a significant amount of the population who are smokers and who ignore the warnings about the harmful effects of such a habit. It’s likely to take both an improvement in the medical care available in those areas as well as an anti-smoking campaign as aggressive as California’s to make any kind of difference. In the meantime, it’s up to parents like us to continue to warn our children to stay away from tobacco products.
- Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.