Cigarettes linked to nearly 30% of cancer deaths: 6 things to know

With approximately 40 million active adult smokers in the United States, smoking is still the number one cause of preventable death in the nation. A new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, sought to determine the proportion of cancer deaths attributable to cigarette smoking.

For the study, researchers examined data on 12 smoking-related cancers and smoking prevalence from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for every U.S. state and the District of Columbia.

Here are six findings from the study.

1. Researchers estimate 167,133 cancer deaths were attributable to cigarette smoking in 2014, accounting for 28.6 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S.

2. The rate of smoking-related cancer deaths was at least near 30 percent in every state except Utah, which had the lowest smoking-related cancer death rate at 21.8 percent.

3. States with the highest prevalence of smoking-related deaths were Arkansas (39.5 percent), Tennessee (38.5 percent), Louisiana (38.5 percent), Kentucky (38.2 percent) and West Virginia (38.2 percent).

4. A majority of the states with the highest proportion of smoking-attributable cancer deaths were in the South, including 9 out of the 10 top states for men and 6 out of the 10 top states for women. Researchers suggest these high death rates tie back to historically higher smoking rates in the southern U.S. These states have less restrictive smoking policies and more affordable cigarette prices.

5. Researchers suggest their findings likely underrepresent the true number of cancer deaths related to smoking because the data only covered 12 types of cancer. Also, the information analyzed on smoking prevalence was self-reported by the smokers themselves. Such data are known to create low estimates.

6. The study's authors conclude, "Increasing tobacco control funding, implementing innovative new strategies and strengthening tobacco control policies and programs, federally and in all states and localities, might further increase smoking cessation, decrease initiation and reduce the future burden of smoking-related cancers."

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