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Rural Communities Such as Highlands County Have Higher Rates of Tobacco Use
February 27, 2018

Most people in this world today realize and have learned the threat tobacco use poses to their health. The serious health risks have been discussed for decades in school health classes, by parents, doctors and by prevention experts and programs. While tobacco use continues to decline, we still have at risk communities all over the United States that have much higher usage rates than others.

Research has shown that rural communities like Highlands County, Florida, are more heavily affected by cigarette and smokeless tobacco use. In fact, the health of people living in rural areas is impacted by tobacco use more so than those in urban and metropolitan areas, often because of socioeconomic factors such as lower levels of education, and higher levels of unemployment.

According to the American Lung Association, smokers living in rural areas are more likely to smoke 15 or more cigarettes per day than smokers living in urban areas.

Because of their low socioeconomic status, those people are also exposed to secondhand smoke more often and are less likely to successfully quit, even after multiple attempts. In addition, teens in rural populations also smoke more and at earlier ages than their urban peers making them replacement smokers for their elder counterparts that have died off from tobacco use.

After conducting the point-of-sale tobacco retailer audits in Highlands County, it was evident that the lower income neighborhoods had tobacco retailers closer in proximity and have 2-3 times more tobacco advertisements (outside & inside). This is important because people who see tobacco promotions in places where tobacco is sold are more likely to smoke.

In many communities across the State of Florida, smoking, the use of smokeless tobacco, and exposure to second-hand smoke are accepted as a fact of life, but they don't have to be.

Tobacco Control Programs such as Tobacco Free Florida, are the foundation of state and local tobacco prevention efforts. Through programs such as these we can reduce tobacco use among our rural counties by increasing the number of people covered by comprehensive smoke-free laws.

The Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County urges YOU to become involved in local initiatives that work to reduce tobacco use in your community. For more information contact Amanda John, Tobacco Prevention Specialist at

American Lung Association. Cutting Tobacco’s Rural Roots: Tobacco Use in Rural Communities. Chicago: American Lung Association, 2015 [accessed 2016 Aug 26].

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2012 [accessed 2016 Aug 26].