In 2009, the percentage of adult smokers in Baltimore City (28.3%) was higher than Kentucky and West Virginia – the two states tied for the highest percentage of smokers (25.6%) in the country. Although Maryland has one of the lowest smoking rates in the country, significant disparities exist among Baltimore smokers with high and low income and educational attainment levels. The smoking rates for city residents with an income of less than $15,000 is 36 percent (compared to 15.1 percent for the highest income group). Likewise, the rate for college graduates is 14.8 percent, compared to 33.9 percent for those with a high school education or less, according to the 2009 Baltimore City Community Health Survey.
These are troubling numbers, especially because tobacco use remains one of the most preventable causes of death and disease.
Today, I am calling on all city residents to join us in commemorating World No Tobacco Day. This day is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco use on the health and well-being of Baltimore City residents.
The negative health effects of tobacco use are well known. It contributes to early heart attacks, strokes, chronic lung diseases and cancers. There is also compelling evidence of the harmful impact of secondhand smoke to nonsmokers and children who suffer from respiratory infections. Smoking is associated with preterm births, stillbirths and low birth weight, all of which can cause infant mortality. Eighty percent of all fire deaths occur in the home; careless smoking is often to blame.
This year, more than 5 million people worldwide will die from a tobacco-related heart attack, stroke, cancer, lung ailment or other disease. Having killed 100 million people during the 20th century, tobacco use could kill 1 billion during the 21st century, according to the World Health Organization.
If you or a loved one is ready to take the step of quitting tobacco, we want to help. Every day, the Health Department and our partners provide the following educational outreach and treatment support for tobacco users:
- Residents may call 410-361-9765 for a referral to a cessation program.
- The Health Department’s SmokeFree Baltimore Tour Bus will provide tobacco use and quitting information from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Baltimore Medical System at Orleans Square health center at 2323 Orleans St.
- The department’s Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Program provides pharmacotherapies to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) for uninsured clients in their cessation programs. Free patches are distributed to clients – either through one-on-one counseling by a health care provider or during cessation classes. To find the FQHC nearest you, call 311, the city’s service line.
- The national Quit Line – 1-800-QUITNOW – provides counseling to callers who want to quit. Qualifying callers are provided with a month’s supply of patches and gum.
Being tobacco free is a high priority area for this department. Earlier this month, we unveiled Healthy Baltimore 2015, our five-year health policy agenda for improving health outcomes and reducing health disparities in Baltimore. In it, we set ambitious goals for realizing our goal of a tobacco free Baltimore. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to review this important document and sign up to partner with us on these and other important efforts to improve public health in Baltimore City.