No butts about it: Cigarettes account for over one-quarter of all cancer deaths

© Michaela Rehle
Despite not being as commonplace as they once were, cigarettes are still to blame for nearly three in 10 cancer-related deaths in the US. Researchers found an estimated 167,133 people in 2014 died of cancers associated with smoking cigarettes.

There are over 100 different types of cancer, but 12 of them are related to smoking tobacco, and those made up 28.6 percent of all cancer deaths in 2014, according to a study from the American Cancer Society. That same year, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that tobacco habits were on the decline, going from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 16.8 in 2014.

The first notable report on the hazards of smoking came from the US Surgeon-General in 1964. Since then, anti-tobacco legislation has been passed across the country, with cigarettes no longer being welcome in most bars and restaurants. However, smokers between the ages of 18 and 44 represented the largest demographic of smokers with 20 percent, according to the CDC.

The study breaks down where cigarette-related cancers kill the most people, such as in Southern states with historical ties to tobacco like West Virginia and Kentucky. The study found that in those states, “smoking explained nearly 40 percent of cancer deaths.

West Virginia and Kentucky were also found to be among the states with the fewest restrictions on indoor smoking, the Los Angeles Times reported. Kentucky also had some of the lowest anti-tobacco spending.

Ninety-five percent of the tobacco is grown in the Southern states, where the numbers are highest,” Joannie Lortet-Tieulent, the study’s lead author and an epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society, told the New York Times. “This political and economic influence has translated into weaker tobacco control policy and cheaper cigarettes where taxes on them are lower.

This discrepancy between the science against cigarettes and their continued prevalence in society is due to gaps in anti-tobacco legislation, the study claims. For example, only one-third of the states have banned smoking in public spaces, and no state follows the World Health Organization’s recommendation to add a 75 percent tax of the retail price to cigarettes.

The highest cigarette tax is in New York City, where a single pack can cost over $14, according to the Awl.

The CDC recommended that states give tobacco cessation $3.1 billion or roughly just over 15 percent of tobacco revenue. The only state that followed these guidelines is North Dakota. Only seven states offer comprehensive Medicaid coverage for tobacco cessation treatment.