What others say: Alaskans and smoking

  • Monday, October 31, 2016 8:38pm
  • Opinion

Pop quiz: What causes more deaths in Alaska than car crashes, murders, suicides and AIDS combined?

Researchers from the American Cancer Society have some bad news for Alaskans: We’re still smoking too much — and it’s killing us.

Alaska is No. 6 in the country in percentage of cancer deaths attributable to cigarette smoking, according to a new study published in an affiliate of the Journal of the American Medical Association. That’s according to 2014 figures, looking at all cancer deaths for the year for people 35 and older. When it’s broken down by gender, Alaska women are No. 2 in the country in percentage of cancer deaths attributable to cigarette smoking, with 27.5 percent. Alaska men have 34.3 percent of cancer deaths related to cigarettes, good for No. 18 in the country. In all, 31.4 percent of cancer deaths in Alaska were tied to cigarettes.

What do those numbers mean?

According to the researchers, it means that roughly 300 people a year in Alaska are dying when they don’t have to. That’s a lot of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, grandfathers and grandmothers.

When broadened beyond cigarettes, the toll increases. Almost 600 Alaskans died from tobacco-related ailments in 2011, according to a report affiliated with Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. Put in more dramatic terms, that means that tobacco use killed more people in Alaska than “suicide, motor vehicle crashes, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, homicide, HIV/AIDS and influenza combined,” according to the report.

The same report found that tobacco use cost people in the state $563 million in medical expenses and lost productivity, not including the people who develop issues from second-hand smoke.

In general, researchers from the American Cancer Society found more cigarette-related deaths in the South, with two exceptions: Nevada and Alaska. Nevada, they said, is one of the few states that allows smoking in bars. In Alaska, it gets a little tricky: Individual cities such as Anchorage have banned smoking in bars, but there is no state law. In March, the state Senate passed SB 1, which would have eliminated smoking in bars and restaurants. The bill moved to the House, but didn’t move forward during that session.

Outside factors and laws aside, we are all responsible for our own health. Over time, the costs of tobacco use are wide-ranging and severe. Resources for people interested in quitting can be found at http://alaskaquitline.com.

— Ketchikan Daily News, Oct. 31, 2016

More in Opinion

This image available under the Creative Commons license shows the outline of the state of Alaska filled with the pattern of the state flag.
Opinion: Bringing broadband to all Alaskans

Too many Alaskans face barriers accessing the internet.

This photo shows a stack of pocket constitutions at the Alaska State Capitol. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Join us in voting against a constitutional convention

Voting no on a constitutional convention is vital to the well-being and stability of our state.

Michael O’Meara.
Point of View: Tell BOEM how you feel

It seems like BOEM should prioritize input from people most likely to be affected if leases are sold

The State of Alaska, Department of Administration, Office of Information Technology webpage. (Screenshot/oit.alaska.gov)
Cloud migration now underway will strengthen, enhance State IT systems

At the most basic level, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services remotely

Jessica Cook, left, and Les Gara stand in The Peninsula Clarion’s offices on Thursday, June 30, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska Voices: Better schools for a better economy

We need leaders who care about our children’s futures

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: This is our borough and city

By Therese Lewandowski Another election already? Yes! This is our local elections… Continue reading

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation building is seen in Juneau, Alaska, in March 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: APFC keeps steady keel during turbulent year

FY2022 was a challenging year for all investors

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Nonprofits provide essential services not provided by cities

By our count, nonprofits provide more than 100 jobs to our communities

t
Opinion: Don’t get scammed like I nearly did

I should have just turned off the computer.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce campaigns for governor as he walks in the 65th annual Soldotna Progress Days Parade on Saturday, July 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. Pierce resigned as borough mayor effective Sept. 30, 2022, to focus on his gubernatorial campaign. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: ‘It has been an honor to serve’

Borough mayor gives send-off ahead of departure

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announces Friday, July 15, 2022, that 2022 most PFD payments will be distributed on Sept. 20, 2022. (Screenshot)
Opinion: A historic PFD still leaves work to be done

It is important to remember the dividend is not, and has never been, a welfare payment