While recently available data gathered by the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) show Wyoming’s smoking rates have declined, related harmful health consequences continue to be a concern with new differences showing between men and women.
“Smoking’s harmful link to health conditions such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and dental issues is well established,” Joe Grandpre, Chronic Disease/Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Unit manager with WDH.
Grandpre said Wyoming’s smoking rate has gone down. The 2016 Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) results show Wyoming’s current smoking rate among adults is 18.9 percent; the same rate was 24.6 percent in 2003. “Interestingly, this is the first year our results have shown more women smokers (19.1 percent) than men (18.8 percent),” he said.
Grandpre said Wyoming men tend to use other tobacco products such as smokeless tobacco at higher rates than women. The state’s total smokeless tobacco usage rate is 9.8 percent; it is 17 percent for men and 2.3 percent for women.
E-cigarette usage was also measured. Among adults according to 2016 BRFSS results, 24.3 percent had ever tried e-cigarettes while 5.5 percent use them currently. Men report using e-cigarettes at a higher rate (6.1 percent) than women (5 percent).
Wyoming cancer surveillance data are also collected by WDH. Lung cancer was the third most diagnosed cancer in both 2014 and 2015 behind breast cancer and prostate cancer. “However, we know that lung cancer continues to be the number one cause of cancer death in Wyoming,” Grandpre said.
In 2014 there were 303 lung cancer diagnoses (men-146; women-157) in Wyoming and 212 lung cancer deaths. In 2015, there were 276 diagnoses (men-131; women-145) and 213 deaths. “2014 and 2015 marked the first time in Wyoming that more women than men were diagnosed with lung cancer in consecutive years,” Grandpre said.
“One reason we may be seeing an increase in lung cancer diagnoses among women is that historically women as a population started smoking later,” Grandpre said. “American men started smoking just before and during World War II with a peak of about 55 percent of men smoking around 1955. American women did not start smoking until the later 1950s and early 1960s, peaking at around 33 percent in about 1968.”
Grandpre noted the gap between Wyoming lung cancer deaths in men and women has been closing steadily over the last 30 years.
Like lung cancer, the number of deaths associated with COPD in Wyoming is on the increase. From 1990 to 1999 there were an average of 143 COPD deaths in men and 112 deaths in women per year. Between 2000 and 2009 women overtook men with an average of 152 COPD deaths in women and 149 deaths in men. The most recent data show women averaging 177 COPD deaths per year and men averaging 172 deaths per year.
“With COPD, our BRFSS data clearly show the link to smoking. Only 2.6 percent of residents with COPD never smoked, while 12.6 percent did smoke at some point in their lives,” Grandpre said. “We see a similar trend with heart disease. Of those who have been diagnosed, 4.2 percent never smoked and 8.6 percent did smoke at some point.”
“The effects of smoking on dental health are perhaps overlooked but important,” Grandpre said. According to 2016 BRFSS data, 24.7 percent of adults over age 45 have had six or more teeth lost or removed due to gum disease or tooth decay. Of these, 44 percent were smokers and 21 percent were not. Nearly 18 percent of adults over age 65 have lost all their teeth. Of these, 39.4 percent were smokers and 15.1 percent were not.
The Wyoming Quit Tobacco Program (WQTP), which is offered by WDH, can help people who want to quit tobacco use. Interested residents may call 1-800-QUIT NOW or visit www.quitwyo.org online. In addition to free nicotine replacement therapy and Chantix, free phone or online support is available.