Report: Tobacco use highest in rural communities, even among kids

Current Smoking Use by Geography (from the American Lung Association).
Current Smoking Use by Geography (from the American Lung Association).
American Lung Association
Current Smoking Use by Geography (from the American Lung Association).
Current Smoking Use by Age and Geography (from the American Lung Association).

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You might be inclined to associate rural lifestyles with fresh air and clean living, but a new report released Wednesday says residents of rural areas are more likely than urban and suburban dwellers to use tobacco products.

The report from the American Lung Association (ALA) found higher tobacco use in rural communities across the nation, including youngsters who take up tobacco products earlier than city kids. What's more, the report says, rural residents of all ages are twice as likely as their urban and suburban peers to use smokeless tobacco.

Rural residents also have higher exposure rates to second-hand smoke, according to the report, as they’re less inclined to ban smoking from their homes than residents in suburban and urban communities.

California's tobacco-use rate is, at 12.1 percent, five percent lower than the national average, but the ALA says more needs to be done to bring down smoking rates in the golden state's rural communities.

Some rural areas have tobacco-use rates of almost 21 percent.

The California counties with the highest smoking rates are: Tuolumne, Butte, Calaveras, Humboldt and Merced, according to the ALA’s report, State of Tobacco Control 2012: California Local Grades .

The organization says increasing the cost of cigarettes is one proven way to cut smoking.

California currently pays for tobacco prevention programs with a tax of 87 cents on each pack of cigarettes sold. The average national cigarette tax is $1.46 a pack.

Tobacco use is the nation’s leading cause of preventable illness and death, says the ALA. It is costing the United States $200 billion annually in medical costs and lost productivity, according to the report.