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Tobacco use is the single largest preventable
cause of disease and premature death in Alaska and the United States, yet nearly
1 in every 5 U.S. adults (about 43.8 million Americans) still smoke cigarettes.
About 600 Alaskan deaths and nearly 400,000 U.S. deaths every year result from
direct tobacco use. Exposure to secondhand smoke increases the death toll by
More Alaskans die each year from tobacco use
than from suicide, motor vehicle crashes, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis,
homicide, HIV/AIDS and influenza combined. In 2011, tobacco use
cost Alaska $327 million in direct medical expenditures and an additional $236
million in lost productivity due to tobacco-related deaths.
In an effort to reduce smoking rates, November
has been declared National Smoking Cessation Month as well as Lung Cancer
Awareness Month. November 21 is the Great American Smokeout. Since 1976, the
American Cancer Society has promoted the Smokeout as a day for people to quit,
or make a plan to quit, smoking.
Nearly 23% of Alaskans are smokers – a drop of 18% since 1996. The number of cigarettes purchased in Alaska (cigarettes
sold per Alaska adult) declined 55% during the same time period. While
substantial reductions like this are encouraging, gender, race, and
socioeconomic disparities still exist. More men smoke (24%) than women (21%). Among non-Alaska
Native adults, 2 in 5 (38%) of lower socioeconomic status (SES) smoke, compared
to only 15% of those of higher SES. About 1 in 3 (36%) Alaska Native adults smoke
compared to 1 in 5 (20%) non-Alaska Native adults.
For more than 10 years, the State of Alaska
Tobacco Prevention and Control Program has worked with a variety of partners to
reduce the rate of tobacco use in our state. Great efforts have been made to
stop kids from starting to smoke in the first place because studies show that
99% of regular tobacco users start using by the age of 26. These efforts are
working. Results from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) show that smoking
among Alaska high school students has declined 40 percent, from 17.8 percent in
2007 to only 10.6 percent in 2013.
This month, four Alaskan colleges (Alaska Job Corps, Ilisagvik College, University
of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Christian College) are
joining the “Fresh Air Campus Challenge” –
a campaign sponsored by partners like the American Heart and Lung associations,
American Cancer Society, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The campaign encourages all college campuses in the Pacific Northwest to
develop and implement smoke and/or tobacco-free campus policies by 2016. As a first step in implementing these tobacco-free
policies, a one-day event called “1 Day Stand” calls for all college campuses in Alaska,
Idaho, Oregon, and Washington to implement a tobacco-free policy on November 21
during the Great American Smokeout.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults—United States, 2011. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
2. Alaska Tobacco Facts – 2013 Update.
3. 2010 Alaska BRFSS standard and supplemental
Alaska YRBS Survey Results.