Davis keeps up pressure on tobacco use

Saturday , June 21, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Standard-Examiner staff

FARMINGTON — Four of the five leading causes of death in Davis County can be attributed to tobacco use, according to health officials.

That is why despite Davis County having one of the lowest adult smoking rates in the country at 9.5 percent, health officials will continue to work to educate the public in driving that percentage further downward.

On Tuesday the health department received a $242,945 federal grant from the Utah Department of Health to help with that work.

"It gets harder and harder to drive the numbers down,“ Davis County Health Director Lewis Garrett said of the county’s low tobacco-use rate. He credits the impact the health department has made on the sale of tobacco products to minors, and the predominant LDS culture that takes a hard stand against tobacco use.

The funding will be used for tobacco-prevention programs such as tobacco compliance checks; education for medical providers; campaigns in the schools and the support of tobacco-free activities for the youth.

Between 9 and 10 percent of Davis County adults regularly use tobacco, with 4.4 percent of the youth, grades 9-12, being regular users, according to Garrett. Those figures are much lower than the national rate, which puts adults at 20.4 percent, and youth in the same 9-12 grades age group at 18.1 percent.

Garrett said the health department must continue to work to decrease those rates where four of the five leading causes of death involve tobacco use as a risk factor. The top two causes of death in the county are heart disease and cancer, Garrett said, while stroke and chronic lung disease are fourth and fifth.

Unintentional injuries is ranked third.

Tobacco use, which creates a physical addiction, is a risk factor for heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lung disease, Garrett said.

“Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, on par with the addiction of heroin,“ he said.

The use of electronic cigarettes are less harmful than the use of traditional combustible tobacco products, Garrett said. But the electronic cigarette is still a delivery device for nicotine, he said.

Garrett said his intent is to use a portion of the grant money to continue with the health department’s compliance checks of local convenience stores in ensuring that they are not selling tobacco to minors. "We have had a great impact on the sale of tobacco products to minors,” he said.

The money will also be used for tobacco prevention campaigns for the schools, Garrett said.

The grant money received by the health department will be used during the 2014-15 fiscal year budget.

”In the old days, communicable diseases killed us,“ Garrett said.

Contact reporter Bryon Saxton at 801-625-4244 or bsaxton@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @BryonSaxton.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.