New Haven County is the least healthy county in Connecticut, according to the annual County Health Rankings, released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Tolland County was named the healthiest county in the rankings, which rate each county in every state based on such factors as high school graduation rates, obesity, smoking, and family social support. Fairfield County was named the second healthiest.
This is the third year running that New Haven has taken the dubious honor of least healthy Connecticut county. The second least healthy county is Windham and Hartford is third.
The County Health Rankings rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states. Nationally, the data revealed that unhealthy counties have more than twice the rate of premature deaths than healthy ones and childhood poverty rates are twice as high in unhealthy counties. The rankings do not compare counties in Connecticut to counties in other states. To see the rankings, visit www.countyhealthrankings.com.
Though obesity in general is the still the focus of a lot of negativity and stigma in society, researchers at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity have found, oddly, that people might be more kindly inclined to those with food addictions than you might thinks.
The studies are published online in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology.
The notion of food addiction has gained increased attention from academics, health care professionals, and mainstream media as a contributing factor to obesity. However, little research has been done on public perceptions.
For the project, researchers conducted an online survey of 659 adults. Participants were provided with different labels describing individuals with various health conditions and addictions, including obesity, food addiction, physical disability, mental illness, cocaine addiction, and smoking. Participants were asked questions regarding their beliefs and feelings toward an individual with each of these different conditions. In a second study, researchers conducted an experiment where 570 adults were randomly assigned to view only one addiction — either smoking, alcohol, or food addiction — to specifically compare public perceptions of individuals described as being addicted to food to those with smoking or alcohol addictions.
Findings from both studies revealed that food addiction was viewed more favorably than other addictions, including alcohol and tobacco. The person with the “food addict” label was perceived to be more likeable and generated more empathy, less disgust, and less anger than those labeled with alcohol and tobacco addictions. The person with the “food addict” label also was blamed less than those addicted to other substances.
But the news isn’t all good. Survey findings also showed that labeling an individual as a “food addict” increased stigmatizing attitudes when this label was applied to an obese individual. Participants expressed more irritation, anger, and disgust toward an obese person described as a food addict. The authors suggest that the “food addict” label could increase blame toward obese individuals if the public views food addiction as a euphemism for out-of-control overeating.
You’re aware of all the health risks of smoking, as well as the habit’s impact on your wallet, but you just can’t bring yourself to quit. The answer may lie in your genes.
New research from the Yale University School of Public Health suggests that individuals’ genetics play an important role in whether they respond to tobacco-control policies. The study appears online in the journal PLOS ONE.
According to the research, smoking dropped sharply after the Surgeon General’s landmark report on the dangers of tobacco was published in 1964, but rates have plateaued during the past two decades despite increasingly stringent measures to persuade people to quit. The study found biological evidence that may help explain why some people respond to anti-smoking inducements, such as higher taxes and the expansion of clean-air laws, and why others do not.
“We found that for people who are genetically predisposed to tobacco addiction, higher cigarette taxes were not enough to dissuade them from smoking,” said lead researcher Jason M. Fletcher, associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Yale School of Public Health in a press release. Fletcher, also a former Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar, examined the interplay between state-level tobacco taxation and a nicotinic receptor gene in a cross-section of U.S. adults.
The “gene-policy interaction” study found that variations in the nicotine receptor were linked to the influence of higher taxes on multiple measures of tobacco use. Individuals with a specific genetic variant decreased their tobacco use by nearly 30 percent when facing high tobacco taxes, while individuals with an alternative genetic variant had no response.
Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and is responsible for more than 400,000 deaths each year, according to the study. Tobacco taxation, meanwhile, has been credited with helping to reduce use by more than 50 percent since the Surgeon General’s report.
Though Connecticut has made some strides in funding measures that help smokers quit, there’s still a lot of work to be done. That’s according to the American Lung Association’s report “Helping Smokers Quit: Tobacco Cessation Coverage 2012,” which was released today.
The report provides a comprehensive review of each state’s tobacco cessation coverage and an up-to-date look at federal coverage and requirements under the Affordable Care Act. On Nov. 26, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a proposed rule requiring essential health benefit coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act to cover preventive services, including cessation. However, HHS hasn’t yet defined what insurers must include as part of a cessation benefit.
According to the lung association, not only is smoking dangerous for your health, it’s also costly. The association estimates the annually costs of tobacco use in the U.S. are $193 billion, and argues that providing comprehensive coverage of messages that help people quit is crucial to saving lives and dollars.
However, the report shows that only two states — Indiana and Massachussetts — provide comprehensive cessation coverage through Medicaid and four states — Illinois, New Mexico, North Dakota and Rhode Island — provide comprehensive coverage through state employee health plans.
Connecticut received mixed reviews in the report. It was one of two states to expand its Medicaid coverage of cessation in 2012, adding coverage of all seven tobacco cessation medications and individual counseling. But Medicaid still doesn’t cover group or phone counseling. And there are several cessation measures not covered under state employee health plans in Connecticut, including nicotine replacement therapy nasal spray and inhalers, and group and individual counseling. The state also doesn’t meet lung association best practices for funding its Quitlines, with the state spending about $3.40 per smoking on the phone services. ALA recomends a level of $10.53 per smoker, or more.
What do you think about the report? Do you think the state should fund smoking cessation programs? Leave your comments below.
On Friday, the U.S. Appeals Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that graphic warning labels for cigarettes — which the Food and Drug Administration had mandated be on all cigarette packets by September –are uncostitutional.
The FDA unveiled the labels last year and they depict such harrowing images as a man smoking through a tracheotomy hole in his throat, in addition to written warnings meant to dissuade smokers. The ruling, issued in March by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, found that the labels violate free-speech rights. Leon agreed with the representatives of several cigarette companies — who, not surprisingly, opposed the labels — that the packaging was forcing tobacco companies to serve as an “unwilling mouthpiece” for the FDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.”
Last week’s decision upholding the ruling was met with dismay by some anti-tobacco advocates. On Friday, Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids issued a statement urging the Justice Department to “quickly appeal (the) ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that struck down the large, graphic cigarette warnings required by the landmark 2009 law giving the FDA authority over tobacco products. Today’s ruling is wrong on the science and law, and it is by no means the final word on the new cigarette warnings. The only other appellate court to consider the issue, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, upheld the graphic warnings requirement in March. The split decisions make it likely the U.S. Supreme Court will settle the issue.”
He added that studies around the world show that warnings like those proposed by the FDA are effective at discouraging people from smoking and motivating smokers to quit.
“Tobacco companies are fighting the graphic warnings precisely because they know such warnings are effective,” Myers’s statement read. “The companies continue to spend billions of dollars to play down the health risks of smoking and glamorize tobacco use. These new warnings will tell the truth about how deadly and unglamorous cigarette smoking truly is. Research has found that pack-a-day smokers could be exposed to cigarette health warnings more than 7,000 times per year. The new warnings will provide a powerful incentive for smokers to take the life-saving step of quitting and for kids never to try that first cigarette.”
Adolescents who smoke cigarettes or use alcohol or marijuana may be at greater risk for subsequent abuse of prescription opioids as young adults, according to a new study by Yale School of Medicine, which appears online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
According to a release put out by Yale, the researchers set out to determine whether certain tenets of the so-called “gateway hypothesis” applied to subsequent abuse of prescription opioids — specifically, whether substance use in the adolescent years was associated with later abuse of harder drugs. They studied demographic and clinic data collected from 18- to 25-year-olds from the 2006-2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health to determine the likelihood, based on their prior usage.
The researchers believe their findings are the first to demonstrate that early alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use are all associated, to varying degrees, with a two- to-three times greater likelihood of subsequent abuse of prescription opioids.
The Yale researchers’ findings included:
12 percent of the survey population of 18- to 25-year-olds reported current abuse of prescription opioids.
For this population, prevalence of previous substance use was 57% for alcohol, 56 percent for cigarettes, and 34% for marijuana.
In young men, previous abuse of all three substances was associated with an increased likelihood of subsequent opioid abuse during young adulthood, but only previous marijuana use carried this association among young women.
The Yale study could lead to much more targeted efforts at prevention.
The National Institutes of Health are giving Yale University researchers a $6 million, five year grant to help fund the new Yale-Specialized Center of Research on Women’s Health. The center will develop ways to help women stop smoking.
According to a press release put out by Yale, women traditionally have a lower success rate for quitting smoking than men. The press release quotes the center’s principal investigator, Sherry McKee, as saying that current smoking cessation medications might not be as effective for women.
“While men are more likely to smoke for the reinforcing properties of nicotine, which coincides with the success of nicotine replacement therapies for men, women are more likely than men to smoke to regulate mood and relieve stress,” said McKee, also associate professor of psychiatry at Yale. “This suggests an important difference for the development of effective smoking-cessation treatments.”
In addition to McKee, the center will be led by Carolyn M. Mazure, professor of psychiatry, as scientific director, and Marina Picciotto, the Charles B. G. Murphy Professor of Psychiatry, Neurobiology and Pharmacology, and Kelly Cosgrove, assistant professor of psychiatry and diagnostic radiology, who will lead pivotal studies within the center.
With the Food and Drug Administration still reeling from the recent ruling that declared its controversial cigarette labels unconstitutional, you wouldn’t think it would be the best time to launch another anti-smoking campaign that graphically depicts the consequences of lighting up.
Well, the Centers for Disease Control an Prevention think it’s a swell time for such a campaign. On Thursday, the CDC launched its “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign, which features compelling stories of former smokers living with smoking-related diseases and disabilities, and the toll smoking-related illnesses take on smokers and their loved ones. The ads, which start running on Monday, focus on smoking-related lung and throat cancer, heart attack, stroke, Buerger’s disease, and asthma.
The CDC has samples of several ads on its web site, including this one, depicting the story of a young man with Buerger’s disease, a disorder linked to tobacco use that causes blood vessels in the hands and feet to become blocked and can result in infection or gangrene.
The ads will be tagged with 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a toll-free number to access quit support across the country, or the www.smokefree.gov web site, which provides free quitting information.
Not sure how the ads will be received, particularly by those who opposed the cigarette labels that featured, among other things, a smoker with rotten teeth and a man smoking out of a tracheotomy hole. But they do represent another bold step in the fight against smoking.
Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, killing more than 443,000 Americans each year. Cigarette smoking costs the nation $96 billion in direct medical costs and $97 billion in lost productivity each year. More than 8 million Americans are living with a smoking-related disease, and every day over 1,000 youth under 18 become daily smokers. Still, nearly 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit, and half make a serious quit attempt each year.
For more information on the “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign, including profiles of the former smokers, other campaign resources, and links to the ads, visit www.cdc.gov/Quitting/Tips.