Blue-collar cities at top of smoking rates list

Published Dec. 14, 2001|Updated Sept. 11, 2005

Blue-collar Midwestern and Southern cities such as Cleveland, Toledo, Ohio, and Huntington, W.Va., have the nation's highest smoking rates, according to the government's first city-by-city study of tobacco use.

Smoking rates are lowest in Western and Eastern cities, such as San Diego and Bergen-Passaic, N.J., where clean indoor-air laws are stronger and cigarette taxes are higher, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

Toledo had the highest rate of any metropolitan area in the country, with more than 31 percent of its residents reporting they were smokers.

"We're an industrial city," said Larry Vasko of the Toledo-Lucas County Board of Health. "We have a lot of kids smoking, a lot of young adults smoking."

The health department this summer adopted a ban on smoking inside all public places, including bars and restaurants. The divisive decision is being held up by a lawsuit.

Arnie Elzey, owner of Arnie's Eating and Drinking Saloon in Toledo, is leading the fight against the smoking ban.

"People enjoy sitting down with a beer and smoking a cigarette," Elzey said. "It's Toledo. It's not California."

Orange County, Calif., had the lowest rate _ just 13 percent.

California has the nation's toughest ban, prohibiting smoking even in bars.

The study examined 99 cities last year, asking respondents in a random telephone survey whether they smoked at least on some days and whether they had smoked more than 100 cigarettes. Those who answered yes to both were labeled smokers.

Federal health officials hope breaking down the statistics to individual cities will help pinpoint areas where anti-tobacco programs need to be stronger.