State smoking statistics looking grim - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

State smoking statistics looking grim

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

While fewer people nationwide are smoking, Alabama's statistics haven't improved.

The numbers paint a grim picture.

Nearly 25% of Alabamians smoke.

That's roughly 1.2 million people.

"Most people have heard smoking is bad for my health, but is it that bad? Yes it is," says Dr. Jim McVay with the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Dr. McVay says those who smoke not only hurt themselves, but their family members.

"Their loved ones that they live with are at much greater risk for lung cancer, for strokes, for heart disease."

That's because second hand smoke"actually contains 4,800 chemicals, which we know 69 of those chemicals are cancer-causing," says Ashley Lyerly with the American Lung Association.

The association's statistics prove smoking contributes to 80% of lung cancer deaths in women and 90% of lung cancer deaths in men.

"What we know is tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States," says Lyerly.

Healthcare professionals say society is less supportive of smoking.

In the past 20-30 years restaurants, bars, offices and public areas have enacted no-smoking policies.

"The deterrents do have an impact," says Dr. McVay.

But quitting is still difficult for many people.

That's why Dr. McVay says it takes help from everyone.

"They've gotta realize it, they've gotta work with their family members, the people they work with."

"After 10 years of quitting, you can actually decrease by half your risk of getting lung cancer," adds Lyerly.

Healthcare professionals say most people who smoke as adults started when they were teenagers.

23% of high schoolers smoke in Alabama.

Nearly 9,000 start smoking each year.

If you're interested in quitting smoking you can call the Alabama Department of Public Health's hotline at 1-800-QUIT NOW.

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