Smoking still health concern for Ohio

We have known for decades that smoking can cause cancer, heart disease and a variety of other illnesses. Yet many Americans still have not kicked the habit.

Here in Ohio, the concern is particularly worrisome, and it’s getting worse, not better. Last year, 22.5 percent of adults in Ohio smoked, the CDC estimates. That was higher than the 21 percent rate in 2015.

What to do about the problem?

High taxes on tobacco products do not appear to correlate strongly with smoking. Ohio charges $1.60 per pack of cigarettes. But Utah, close to that at $1.70, has the lowest adult smoking rate in the nation, at 8.8 percent.

What about educating young people?

Though CDC results for Ohio make it difficult to judge how well tobacco education works there, there is substantial data in neighboring West Virginia. It is not encouraging.

Last year, according to a CDC survey of high school students, 14.4 percent of them in the Mountain State smoked cigarettes. That compares to 8.8 percent nationally.

That may hold the key to reducing tobacco use. Obviously, we are not doing a very good job of steering young people away from it. We simply have to do better.