Report: Tobacco use declining in South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) -- Efforts to prevent tobacco use in South Carolina are starting to pay off, according to a release from the S.C. Tobacco-Free Collaborative.

Since 2007, the high school smoking rate has dropped nearly 19 percent and the rate of adults smoking in the state has dropped by 8 percent.

According to the release, three key measures have contributed to the decrease in the number of South Carolinians who smoke.

First, the cigarette tax has increased to $1.12 per pack, which includes a federal increase of 62 cents. Second,the number of smoke-free communities has gone from 9 to 54. The third key cited in the release is an increase in the number of tobacco-free school districts and college campuses, in addition to state and federal media campaigns to encourage people to quit smoking.

"This South Carolina-specific report clearly reveals our state's accomplishments, but much is left to be done," said Louis Eubank, executive director of the S.C. Tobacco-Free Collaborative. "We are excited to build on the momentum of the 50th Anniversary of the first Surgeon General's Report on Smoking with recommendations on what the Palmetto State can do to move ahead in eliminating the deadly toll tobacco use takes on our state."

The report advises the state to spend $51 million each year on comprehensive tobacco prevention and control programs, which is the amount of money the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.

According to the release, the investment will help the Palmetto State reduce the adult smoking rate to 12% or less by 2020.

Currently, the state commits $5 million annually to tobacco use prevention.

"Four of South Carolina's most expensive medical conditions and top causes of premature death are directly related to tobacco-use: heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," said Eubank. "We spend about $80 to treat smoking-related illness for every $1 spent to prevent it. This statistic underscores the critical need to boost tobacco prevention efforts in our state."