Archive for Sunday, January 17, 2010

Smoking, obesity top state health issues

Gov. Mark Parkinson on Tuesday listens before speaking at the annual meeting of the Governor's Council on Fitness that was held at the Topeka-Shawnee County Public Library. Parkinson advocated for a statewide ban on smoking in public places, and said he was evaluating whether to call for an increase in the cigarette tax.

Gov. Mark Parkinson on Tuesday listens before speaking at the annual meeting of the Governor's Council on Fitness that was held at the Topeka-Shawnee County Public Library. Parkinson advocated for a statewide ban on smoking in public places, and said he was evaluating whether to call for an increase in the cigarette tax.

January 17, 2010


— Smoking and obesity are the top health challenges facing Kansans.

Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, director of health for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said they are costing lives and money.

But, he said, there are proven measures that state and local policymakers could implement to help reduce the diseases.

Up in smoke

Each year, tobacco-related diseases kill at least 3,900 Kansans and cost taxpayers $927 million.

Nationally, about 443,000 deaths are attributable to cigarette smoking. That’s about 200 times the death toll caused by 9/11.

“We are spending millions of dollars to keep some guy with a bomb in his underpants off of our plane, and yet we are spending very little on tobacco prevention,” Eberhart-Phillips said, shaking his head.

Eberhart-Phillips outlined some effective ways to reduce smoking during a presentation Friday at the Kansas Health Institute in Topeka:

• Counter marketing. In New York City, he said, “they do very graphic advertising that shows people unequivocally just what they are getting into when they take up smoking.”

• Restricting access to tobacco for youth.

Raising cigarette taxes. KDHE estimates that the measure would cause about 9,000 adults to quit and keep 16,000 teens from ever starting.

• Passing smoke-free policies. Eberhart-Phillips said there’s no debate that secondhand smoke is bad. It kills 400 Kansans every year and causes 2,100 heart attacks. Data shows that 40 percent fewer youths smoke when there is a ban in place.

“When we wholeheartedly support these kinds of measures, things start to happen,” he said.

New York City implemented all of the measures in the early 2000s, and its smoking rate declined. Among teens, it dropped from 18 percent to 8 percent. The adult smoking rate went from 21 percent to 15 percent.

In Kansas, the rate has dropped modestly over the past decade. The adult smoking rate is 18 percent, and the high school smoking rate is 20 percent.

“We have a long, long way to go,” Eberhart-Phillips said.

Eberhart-Phillips said he could talk and talk about how nonsmokers live longer, are better workers and happier people, but that generally doesn’t do much good.

In a tight budget year, he thinks money might make a difference.

He said a heart attack costs about $50,000.

“Passing a statewide smoking ban would be like putting $5 million back into the economy if it prevents 100 heart attacks a year.”

So far, the Kansas Legislature has failed to pass a smoking ban, but it will be on the agenda again this session. The Kansas Senate passed two similar proposals last year. Both have stalled in the House.

State Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, and chairwoman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, described the proposals as “watered down.”

She opposes the plans for a number of reasons. One is they impose a ban in restaurants and bars and exempt state-owned casinos. Another is there are no enforcement policies.

“It’s no different than if you get pulled over for speeding, an officer has an option of giving us a ticket or not giving us a ticket,” she said.

Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson has proposed raising the cigarette tax by 55 cents per pack to $1.34, which is the national average.

Despite the mounting evidence of benefits, five state lawmakers said Friday if the cigarette tax passed, it likely would be by a small margin.

State Sen. Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, and Senate majority leader, said that’s because business owners worry that Kansans who live close to Missouri will buy cigarettes there, where cigarette taxes are 17 cents per pack — the second lowest in the nation.

State Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, House minority leader, said many people are opposed to “selected tax increases.”

He described any tax increase as “an uphill battle.”

Growing girth

Policies to help curb the obesity epidemic have been on the agenda as well.

For example, Landwehr said her committee looked at eliminating junk food in vending machines.

“The schools came out big time opposing that because they make money on those vending machines,” she said.

Lawmakers said implementing policies that affect behavior isn’t easy.

“Kansans don’t like to be told what to do,” said State Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita.

But, Eberhart-Phillips said something needs to be done.

Twenty-five percent of high school students are overweight or obese in Kansas.

Some of the reasons:

• 79 percent don’t get at least five servings of fruits or vegetables per day.

• 33 percent consume more than one can or bottle of soda daily.

• 55 percent don’t get an hour of physical activity at least five times a week.

“This may be the first generation of Americans ever to die younger than their parents,” Eberhart-Phillips said.

Obesity can cause a plethora of health problems such as stroke, osteoarthritis, cancer and hypertension.

Diabetes is one of the most common obesity-related diseases, and is rising at a rapid rate. In the past five years, 35,000 Kansans were newly diagnosed.

“Every woman, man and child in Kansas is paying a diabetes tax. You are paying about $566 per year because of this problem and it’s going up by 32 percent,” Eberhart-Phillips said.

It is costing the nation $174 billion.

“If the diabetes treatment industry in the United States were its own country, it would be the 45th largest economy in the world. We spend more on diabetes drug treatment in the United States — for this one disease — than people in Pakistan or the Philippines or Kuwait or Egypt spend on everything in their lives for an entire year. It’s bigger than their whole economy,” he said.

To help curb the epidemic, KDHE suggests:

Increasing exposure to healthy foods. For example, providing subsidies to farmers’ markets.

• Limiting consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and junk foods. Only 3 percent of schools have exemplary health policies on vending machines.

“We put kids in high school through health class where they learn all about good nutrition. The bell rings and then they are turned loose on a bank of vending machines that have nothing but junk,” Eberhart-Phillips said.

• Modifying the “built environment” to enable more physical activity.

• Requiring restaurants to put nutrition labels on menus. A recent study found people consumed 14 percent fewer calories at restaurants where nutrition content was listed.

Eberhart-Phillips offered this food for thought:

“You want to have tax cuts? You want to improve the investment in education? ... You need to address this problem. This is eating up our national wealth.”


kansasmutt 8 years, 3 months ago

WOW what a bunch of BS on smoking. To this day not one single real world test has proven smoking kills anyone. Clutch dust and brake dust kill people, so they say. I have to laugh at the people who spoke at this meeting , when they come loaded with untrue info and charts with lines drawn by guesstimations and false ideals. They also do not get the fact that if nobody were to smoke in kansas, the state would be totaly broke ( money wise ) in less than 72 hours. Broke, busted, unable to pay a dime to police, fire and medical personel. Unable to send a kid to school who lives in poverty. They claim 9,000 people will quit if the tax is raised .55 cents. IALMAO, i think not. But if true the state will loose $7.2 million a month in tax revenue. 3/4 of a billion a month just zapped from our state like that. Who is going to make that up you non smokers ? Maybe up the tax on your high end wine or your lexus or your boat ? Our state leaders live in a silver spoon world and we everyday working class people pay for them to sit and figure out how to tax us more , we are lemmings. Stop smoking and stop kansas, Man what a great plan. I,m onboard, LMAO.

Centerville 8 years, 3 months ago

Just what we need now: a bunch of politicians and bureaucrats nagging us and carping that we don't pay enough taxes so that they can nag us more comfortably.

Hwy50 8 years, 3 months ago

@kansasmutt 7.2million = 3/4 billion? Wow. You probably really do believe that smoking doesn't kill. You were probably up too early from yacking up a lung to do proper math.

cowboy 8 years, 3 months ago

This latest PR campaign to raise taxes is complete manure. First they start in on the cost of smoking deaths. News flash , everybody dies and racks up costs during their treatment. Smokers do not have a monopoly on death. Secondly the state collects hundreds of millions of dollars each year from the tobacco settlement and ranks in the lowest quarter nationally in smoking cessation spending.

This is BS , if you need more money just raise the taxes across the board. It's the fair way to do it !

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 8 years, 3 months ago

Smoking obesity: prelude to five-alarm spontaneous human combustion.

doc1 8 years, 3 months ago

Tax the smokers. Don't equal the national average but set a standard. Raise the tax to 7% over the national average. I'm sick of smokers complaining about being taxed yet the majority of smokers are poorer and don't have health insurance. They are a BIG reason why we all have to pay so much for health insurance. I'm sick of paying for smokers.

headdoctor 8 years, 3 months ago

doc1 (Anonymous) says… Tax the smokers. Don't equal the national average but set a standard. Raise the tax to 7% over the national average. I'm sick of smokers complaining about being taxed yet the majority of smokers are poorer and don't have health insurance. They are a BIG reason why we all have to pay so much for health insurance. I'm sick of paying for smokers.

Oh yeah, well I am sick of paying for alcoholics and their tremendous cost on society. They hardly ever go after tax increases on booze. What about the cost of booze when it comes to death and health related causes. While we are at it lets just add to the list. Drug use/huffers, allergic reactions to perfume/after shave and cologne, Fake and or altered sugars, Hypochondriacs, phosphorus and lead based fuels, Ignorant uneducated people(we could really collect a lot of tax just for stupidity alone), poor drivers, bad weather/acts of God/nature, gambling(whoops they get tax from that, never mind the cost to society). That is just a short list. Looks like no one is perfect but me and thee and I question thee.

Godot 8 years, 3 months ago

Not one mention of requiring students to participate in an hour of phys-ed every day. That would not cost enough.

sfjayhawk 8 years, 3 months ago

Kansasmutt says "WOW what a bunch of BS on smoking. To this day not one single real world test has proven smoking kills anyone"

You must be smoking something to say something as stupid as that.

robinbg 8 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

doc1 8 years, 3 months ago

I'll agree. Alcohol needs to be a target too. But I really dislike dirty filthy smokers. I get so irritated at seeing people who can't buy food or clothes for their kids, yet they always have plenty of cigarettes.

kansasmutt 8 years, 3 months ago

The math 9,000 x $80.00 a month. That is on the low side of tax picked up by our state on cigs. $80.00 is only if a person smokes 3 cartons a month, many smoke 5 or 6 so that number is very conservative . ( doc1 ) show me a real study where kids at birth are kept away from anything in our air ( living in a bubble ) for a complete life cycle. Then show me kids kept in a bubble ( with smoke for a few hours a day ) a complete life cycle. Explain to me why i know many who have smoked non filter cigs for 75 years and are healthy as hell for their entire life cycle ? Taxing tabaco will not help anyone nor will it solve a state tax shortfall. Non smokers die everyday and cost buzillions to care for. The stop smoking scam is a bunch of loosers who have nothing else to do but screw up someone elses life becuse they love drama and have a dull pointless direction in life.Than tell me why the life cycle of humans has gone up for the last 100 years with the heavy introduction of tabaco to the general population ????? Your BS doesnt fly today and it wont next week. If you dont smoke, keep out of businesses that allow it. If you smoke, stay out of areas that have a ban. Its that easy. Your brainwashing has a flaw, your facts are all washed up and going up in smoke.

George Lippencott 8 years, 3 months ago

By all means, let us get those fat people. There are provisions in the health care reform bill to do just that according to the Washington Post.

Are we going to charge more for AIDS - another self-inflicted malady? How about alcoholism? And so on. You know we do not fully understand Type II diabetes. It does correlate with obesity. Of course, there could be other factors driving both that are beyond the control of the individual.

Fat people have been getting it since high school. I guess the same crowd is still at it. You know not all people are equal from a metabolism standpoint. Some can gorge themselves and stay thin. Some gain weight by inhaling the fumes from food.

kansasmutt 8 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Karrey Britt 8 years, 3 months ago

LiveWell Lawrence is a group of community members who are concerned about these issues. They are seeking proposals that will make it easier for Lawrence residents to live happier, healthier lives. If you have an idea or solution, I strongly encourage you to attend one of its meetings at the end of the month. For more information, visit this earlier story:

skin_deep 8 years, 3 months ago

All of you people amaze me. The way I see it, We are all people, We all belong to the same communities, We all have to deal with decisions We make for ourselves, We shouldn't punish people for their decisions. We need to be fair and Justified. Let's tax vegans for their choice, Let's tax gays for their choice, Let's tax people who decide to bring new spoiled rotten brat children into this world, Let's tax people Because they arent the skin color we like, let's tax people because they are from the "wrong" side of town,This is just another form of Discrimination and cruelty. I agree smoking is not the best choice, but we shouldn't single out.

KS_Man 8 years, 3 months ago

I'm holding out hope that someday, someone will take a look at all you can eat buffets. It's insane that you pay $7 or $8 and gorge yourself on a day's worth of calories in one setting. Seems like a pretty obvious place to start, but lets keep holding meetings and throwing around impressive statistics about the challenges facing our state. Now that we have the culprits nailed down, maybe we can do something about it next year.

KS_Man 8 years, 3 months ago

Those are great solutions to the two problems, but there is a catch. Those solutions take will-power and a litte hard work. Two things Americans have unfortunately lost the handle on. No, government intervention is not required, but unfortunately, it will be necessary if we really want to solve these issues.

Ya_Think_So 8 years, 3 months ago

There are a ton of people (yep, pun intended) in this town that could burn a few calories by shoveling their sidewalks after the next snowfall. East Lawrence, West Lawrence, rich or poor - lazy people are everywhere!

KsTwister 8 years, 3 months ago

If they really cared it would cost taxpayer less if they would give discounted stop smoking kits away. AND THEY are not doing THAT!! I would not mind paying for it either. I am not going to say what I am thinking because it would get removed. so !!@##@!!### idiotic leadership. What are you doing with your time we are paying for ----we are losing much more taxpayer dollars for that.

parrothead8 8 years, 3 months ago


Your math is terrible. $7.2 million is not 3/4 of a billion. $750 million is 3/4 of a billion.

If the state lost $7.2 million a month due to people quitting smoking, they'd lose $86.4 million per year. Yet smoking-related health problems cost the taxpayers over $927 million per year now.

$927 million. $86.4 million.

Even you should be able to do that math.

jaywalker 8 years, 3 months ago

Top US issues, healthwise. We have to easily be the fattest country on the planet. A huge portion of our paupers are portly. How's that happen?

cowboy 8 years, 3 months ago

Every one dies Each person spends the bulk of health care dollars in the last six years of life for treatment , hospitalization . Until you can prove that non smokers drop dead instantly without any cost incurred you argument is invalid. some honesty is required occasionally in these debates.

jafs 8 years, 3 months ago


I think it has been demonstrated that lifestyle choices can definitely affect the total costs of healthcare over a lifetime.

What you say about the distribution of spending is accurate - in fact the last 6 months are generally the most expensive.

Lung cancer and cirrhosis of the liver are two of the obvious problems that non-smokers/non-alcoholics are extremely unlikely to have.

kansasmutt 8 years, 3 months ago

I put new batteries in my calculator. It works fine now. Yes i was off a bit, but this state would be DOA if everyone quit smoking. I also have to ask How much do non smokers cost to keep alive every year ? I tend to believe its alot more than $927 million. The bottom line is we all have a choice, correct ? We can enter a smoking business or not, correct ? If that choice is taken from me as a smoker, what is going to be taken from you, the non smokers ? Think on that and decide if you want our leaders telling us smokers to leave. How long before non smokers are asked to give up beer like back durring prohabition ? Do we want to have leaders who sit and get paid for taking our rights away and make a certain group of people pay lots more taxes , when is the non smoking groups time to caugh up more tax money ? Our leaders have other ways to collect tax revenue, or even to be business smart and run the state like a business and weed out the waste. The braiwashing in certain groups is so bad and not the way things should be done. We as people have our own choice and our leaders dont think or dont want us to feel we can choose for ourselves. A state doesnt need to tell me not to drink, i quit many many years ago because i decided and chose to quit. The lemmings jumping on the Stop Smoking bandwagon are a sign of people who just dont care about anyone, not even themselves. If you find something offensive on this post, you are becoming a lemming. ( none2) yes my father died from lung cancer. They removed what i said so i will clean it up for them. The DR. said that the smoking had nothing to do with his death. He used lead solder for 50 years. I dont wish cancer on you, not in public anyway :-)

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 3 months ago

Highly educated people can be highly stupid. I am resistant to middle class people dictating standards of behavior to lower class people and then claiming they have a right to. So, you think you are going to get everyone else to live the way you think they should? Good luck with that!

Vic 8 years, 3 months ago

Anyone who says "smoking doesn't kill you" I want to personally slap in the face. My grandmother was a smoker and she died of lung cancer. She didn't get it from anywhere else as she worked for the Post Office. She didn't handle chemicals or breathe in any other toxins other than her cigarettes. But, according to kansasmutt, no single test has proven a link between smoking and cancer...DIAF

das 8 years, 3 months ago

OK...we have an obesity "epidemic" in Kansas. This is the same group(s) that are trying to consolidate and close local schools indirectly by not funding education. Close walkable schools equals healthier kids (there are playgrounds at all schools as well). These are the same group(s) that are taking funding away as well that could keep nature centers, parks, and trails open and well maintained. Is everyone this myopic and dense. It really is very easy to see how these are all related....dots....connect.

SmokeyOne 8 years, 3 months ago

I got so sick and tired of taxes and people not liking me to smoke that I bot a Crown7 electric cigarette.I get nicotine but no tar or carcinogens. Now I go to bars and restaurants and smoke my crown7 and people look at me and try to tell me I cant smoke in there-I explain what it is and they shrug their shoulders and walk away-they dont care because they aren't getting second hand smoke. I am NO longer paying taxes to the crooks and I fell a lot better. I beat them ALL -HAHA

acg 8 years, 3 months ago

I'm a smoker and I know that smoking causes lung problems. Ksmutt, I understand if you're a smoker and your knee jerk reaction to this story is to get angry and deny the correlation between smoking and sickness, but it's there, nonetheless. I know it gets old, the taxes and the comments. Dirty looks from non smokers and the aggravation of having to go outside to smoke almost everywhere now. At least be honest with us and yourself. Smoking is bad, it's dirty, dangerous, expensive and can cause major health issues. You have to be living under a rock to not know that information. Now the question we have to ask ourselves is, how do we quit? You know, without committing mass murder.

George Lippencott 8 years, 3 months ago

Irish (Irish Swearingen) says…

Yes Irish go to it. We sure have a lot of people who want to tell other people how to live.

You are going to die of something. In the last six months it will cost unless we start to ration. Those who voluntarily shorten their lives may in fact (some studies suggest) decrease the cost of medical care by not needing years of it while still costing essentially the same at the end.

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