The percentage of North Carolina adults who reported smoking cigarettes in 2016 is the lowest ever recorded, 17.9 percent. Despite this milestone, North Carolina’s smoking rate remains slightly higher than the national rate of 17.1 percent, and smoking continues to be the leading preventable cause of death in our state.
According to recently released 2016 data from the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics, people with less education, lower income and those who are not working are much more likely to smoke cigarettes than are those with more education, higher income and jobs. In addition, around one in four adults with disabilities in North Carolina, and one in five people who live in rural communities, currently smoke, according to North Carolina’s 2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS).
“There are still large disparities in smoking rates across populations, and half of the people who continue to smoke will die of a smoking-related disease,” said Susan Kansagra, M.D., chief of the Chronic Disease and Injury Section in the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services' in the Division of Public Health. “We need to provide smoking cessation opportunities and support to those who want to quit, especially people in the populations and communities where we find higher smoking rates.”
Quitting smoking, in addition to saving lives, saves money. Smoking costs taxpayers $3.8 billion per year in health care costs alone; $931 million of that comes from North Carolina’s Medicaid program, which provides health care to low-income individuals and families. Smoking is a huge personal financial drain, with a pack-a-day habit costing nearly $2,000 a year, but the largest cost of smoking is compromised health and shorter lives for smokers and those living around them.
The health care system saves an estimated $11,000 when a person quits smoking, due to prevented illness and hospitalizations; this makes investment in tobacco cessation one of the most cost-effective health purchases.
“People who are addicted to nicotine need non-judgmental, personalized support to quit for good,” Kansagra said. “We encourage those who want to quit smoking to call QuitlineNC, at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).”