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Employer News | January 2015
Employer News | January 2015

Upstate New York adults are more likely to smoke than adults in the rest of the state and nation

An Affordable Care Act provision supports smokers who have resolved to quit. 

Cigarette smoking among upstate New Yorkers has steadily declined since 2004, but smoking rates in upstate New York continue to be higher than state and national averages, according to a new Univera Healthcare report.

“We’ve issued this report now with the hope that people who are considering a New Year’s resolution to quit smoking will find in it another strong incentive walk away from this life-shortening habit,” said Richard Vienne, D.O., Univera Healthcare vice president and chief medical officer. “There are also a variety of tools available to help smokers who have resolved to quit,” Vienne added.

A provision of the Affordable Care Act provides greater access to resources that can help smokers quit. For many Americans who have private health insurance plans, tobacco use screenings for adults, cessation interventions for tobacco users and expanded counseling for pregnant women who smoke are now covered at no out-of-pocket cost. For people who have Medicare coverage, stop smoking counseling also is covered.

Issued during the 50th anniversary year of the first Surgeon General's report linking smoking to lung cancer, the Univera Healthcare report found that while 20.9 percent of upstate New York adults smoke, the smoking rate among all New York state adults is significantly lower (16.2 percent), and the smoking rate among U.S. adults is also lower (18.1 percent).

In the eight counties that comprise Western New York, 22.7 percent of the adult population smokes. Among adult males in the region, 23.1 percent smoke. Among adult females in the region, 20.8 percent smoke.

The data also shows that over the past decade, the rate of adult smokers in upstate New York has declined 5.4 points, while the rate of adult smokers in New York state declined 4.9 points, and the rate of adult smokers in the U.S. declined 3.7 points.

Vienne expressed frustration that the rate of decline in the number of smokers isn’t greater.“Taxpayers have spent a fortune over the past 50 years to educate the public about the dangers of smoking, New York state has placed restrictions on where people can smoke, and the state’s taxes on cigarettes are among the highest in the country,” said Vienne. “Despite all that, close to 24,000 New Yorkers die each year from diseases caused by smoking cigarettes, and an additional 3,000 lives are claimed by exposure to secondhand smoke.” 

Univera Healthcare’s “The Facts About Cigarette Smoking Among Upstate New York Adults” reports that smoking costs New York state more than $15.6 billion (2014 dollars) each year in direct medical costs and economic productivity losses.

“Imagine the great things that could be funded in our state by re-directing $15.6 billion to purposes other than those related to tobacco use,” said Vienne.

Smoking among New York state adults varies by socio-economic demographic:

  • One in five adults age 25 to 34 (21.0 percent) smoke.
  • Adults who haven’t earned a high school diploma or GED are more than three times as likely to smoke (24.0 percent) than college graduates (7.3 percent).
  • Adults with incomes below $15,000 are more than twice as likely to smoke (25.2 percent) than those with incomes of $50,000 or more (11.7 percent). 

“We set out to document 50 years of progress in reducing the impact of cigarette smoking on public health and health care spending, but instead found a 50-year trail of success and failure,” said Vienne. “Our hope is that those who have resolved to quit smoking in the new year will take advantage of the additional support available as part of the Affordable Care Act so they can kick the smoking habit once and for all.”

Quitting tips and resources for New Yorkers who already are smokers appear in the report. View “The Facts About Cigarette Smoking Among Upstate New York Adults” and an entire library of fact sheets on health, wellness and health care cost and access issues at UniveraHealthcare.com/factsheets


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