ANTI-SMOKING INITIATIVES: HHS Unveils Tobacco Web Site
In conjunction with yesterday's Great American Smokeout, HHS Secretary Donna Shalala launched a new web site that, for the first time, provides public access to more than 27 million pages of tobacco industry documents that show the dangers associated with smoking. The web site, www.cdc.gov/tobacco, allows users to conduct full searches of key documents made public by state lawsuits, congressional subpoenas and the November 1998 master settlement between the states and the tobacco companies. Shalala said, "I hope that all Americans will take advantage of this user-friendly Web site to find out firsthand what the tobacco companies have known all along about the danger of tobacco products." The web site stems from an Executive Memorandum from President Clinton, who said, "This project lifts the tobacco industry's veil of secrecy so that everyone can know the origins of today's epidemic of teenage smoking and the history of our national addiction to tobacco. These important documents tell in the industry's own words the extent to which vital public health information has been systematically concealed from the public." Shalala also announced yesterday results from a survey examining the prevalence of cigarette smoking among adults in all 50 state and the District of Columbia, which has remained virtually the same since 1996 (HHS release, 11/18). According to this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 22.9% of all Americans over the age of 18 smoke. Kentucky had the highest percentage of adult smokers at 30.8%. Rounding out the five states with the highest adult smoking rates were Nevada (30.4%), West Virginia (27.9%), Michigan (27.4%), and South Dakota (27.3%). Utah had the lowest smoking rate at 14.2%, making it the only state to reach the 2000 health objective of reducing smoking prevalence below 15%. There were more men than women smokers, 25.3% and 21.0%, respectively, with South Dakota having the highest rate of male smokers, 36.5%, and Kentucky having the largest number of female smokers, 28.5% (MMWR, 11/19).
Does It Really Work?
While Massachusetts has taken a proactive charge against smoking, getting other states to follow suit remains a problem for anti- smoking advocates. Massachusetts figures released this week show a dramatic decrease in the number of smokers in the six years since the inception of an aggressive anti-smoking campaign, providing much needed evidence of the campaign's effectiveness. In 1993, prior to the campaign, 22.6% of Massachusetts residents smoked, compared to 19.1% this year. Officials credit the decline to a multipronged attack that includes public health campaigns, services for smokers who want to quit and tough laws restricting youth access to tobacco products. One of the vital components of the successful campaign has been "countermarketing," using billboards and TV spots to illustrate the negative effects of smoking on health. In addition, Massachusetts established a toll-free hotline that provided assistance for smokers who want to quit. Anti-smoking advocates are urging other states to use Massachusetts as a model on which to build their programs. Danny McGoldrick, research director of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, said, "While there's been a lot of attention paid to tobacco over the last (several) years ... if you look across the states, most are doing little or nothing in terms of tobacco prevention." California's nine-year-old anti-tobacco program is the only other program with hard evidence of success. Newer initiatives in states like Arizona, Florida and Oregon "are also showing promise," the Christian Science Monitor reports. McGoldrick said, "The infusion of settlement money is an incredible opportunity." (Teicher, 11/18).