October 12, 2005 in City

Smoking on the wane

Richard Roesler Staff writer

OLYMPIA – Idaho has the third-lowest smoking rate in the country. Just 17.4 percent of Idahoans smoke cigarettes, according to federal data. Only California and Utah were lower.

In Washington, where smokers are already facing a $20-a-carton state tax and a November vote to ban indoor public smoking, the rate was 19.5 percent, according to a state survey.

That’s the ninth-lowest in the country, tied with Maryland, meaning that fewer than one in five Washingtonians is a smoker.

If the current trend continues, fewer than 1 in 6 Washingtonians will be a smoker by the end of the decade, according to the state Department of Health. In the late 1960s, more than half of American men smoked, as did one-third of women.

In the past five years, Washington has spent $108 million to discourage tobacco use. The state runs a toll-free “quitline” (1-877-270-STOP) with free counseling.

Locally, rates remain relatively high. In Pend Oreille County, according to the state Department of Health, more than a quarter of adults – including pregnant women – smoke. Nearly one in three Stevens County adults smokes. Spokane, at 21.8 percent, is slightly higher than the rest of the state.

The fewest number of smokers in our area? Whitman County, at just 16.3 percent.

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