Summer 2017 SAVI Online Magazine Emagazine Summer 2017 mn and ae edits - web - Page 8

FEATURE STORY UNEVEN SUCCESS–AND ACCESS–WHEN IT COMES TO TOBACCO The sharp decline in smoking rates since the 1960s is a remarkable public health success story. About 45 percent of the U.S. population smoked in the mid-1960s. In the last half century, the rate has fallen by two-thirds, to about 15 percent. But the success is uneven, and the story is complicated. Smoking rates vary widely from state to state, city to city, and even neighborhood to neighborhood. In Indiana, 20.6 percent of the population smokes—the 12th highest rate in the nation. In Marion County, the rate is just as high: 21.8 percent of the population smokes. In the five states with the lowest smoking rates, the numbers range from nine to 14 percent. Just as smoking rates vary widely across geographies, access to tobacco is radically uneven from place to place. That’s the key finding of a new report from The Polis Center, Unequal Access, which details the density of tobacco retailing in the Indianapolis area. “While unequal access typically refers to less access to a desirable resource by marginalized populations,” the report notes, “greater access by and to marginalized populations is the troublesome inequity” in the case of 8 tobacco products and tobacco marketing. The disparities in tobacco access matter because greater density of tobacco retailers has been associated with higher rates of smoking. High density of retailers also means there is a concentration of tobacco marketing among populations that are already vulnerable to high rates of tobacco use. Unequal Access helps policymakers and public health professionals connect these dots—between poor health outcomes, high smoking rates, access to tobacco products, and potential solutions. “We’ve known for a long time that smoking is bad—that it causes cancer and a lot of other health problems,” says Karen Frederickson Comer, a co- author of the report and the director of collaborative research and health geoinformatics at The Polis Center. “And yet, despite all this knowledge, our population continues to smoke at higher rates than the rest of the nation. So the question is, what more can we do to target the problem?”