Tobacco is the common name of several plants of the Nicotiana genus and is the general term for any product made using cured tobacco leaves, such as cigarettes. Because tobacco contains nicotine, it can become addictive and users often find it difficult to quit using tobacco products. According to the World Health Organization, tobacco kills more than 8 million people per year, including both smokers and those who are exposed to second-hand smoke. In the United States, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death. Tobacco use increases the risk of several health problems. These include blood clots, coronary heart disease, heart attacks, certain types of cancer, and lung disease. Tobacco use also leads to tooth and gum decay and wrinkled skin.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are disparities in tobacco use between socioeconomic classes. “In the U.S., people living below the poverty level and people having lower levels of educational attainment have higher rates of cigarette smoking than the general population.” Additionally, those in lower-income areas have less access to primary health care and health insurance, and fewer resources to help them quick smoking, increasing their chances of being diagnosed with later stages of cancer and diseases from smoking. The tobacco industry also systematically target low-income populations and specific demographics with price discounts, direct-mail marketing, and in-store promotions.
West Virginia has the highest rate of tobacco use at 26%. People living in rural areas are more likely to smoke than others and are more likely to consume more than 15 cigarettes per day, according to an analysis by the American Lung Association. West Virginia, and many of the top ten states, all have vast rural areas.
The ten states with the lowest rates of tobacco use, in order, are: Utah (8.90%), Puerto Rico (11.30%), California (11.30%), Connecticut (12.70%), Hawaii (12.80%), Washington (13.50%), Massachusetts (13.70%), New Jersey (13.70%), Maryland (13.80%), and New York (14.10%). Utah has the lowest rate of tobacco use in the United States at 8.9%. Utah is the only state to have a tobacco usage rate in the single digits. Throughout the United States, however, tobacco use has been decreasing over the years thanks to smoke-free policies; increased support and programs to help people quit smoking; and campaigns spreading the awareness of health risks associated with tobacco use.