April 1, 2014

A new county-by-county analysis of federal data shows smoking rate declined in Carroll County and all of it neighboring counties over the past 15 years.

But Carroll County recorded the smallest smoking drop of that collection of west-central Iowa counties, going from 24 percent to 23 percent from 1996 to 2012, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

In Iowa as a whole, the smoking rate dropped from 26 percent to 21 percent among all adults, from 23 percent to 19 percent for women and 28 percent to 22 percent for men from 1996 to 2012.

In Carroll's neighboring counties, the rates changed from 1996 to 2012 as follows: Audubon County, 25 percent to 22 percent; Calhoun County, 26 percent to 21 percent; Crawford County, 28 percent to 23 percent; Greene County, 26 percent to 24 percent; Guthrie County, 24 percent to 21 percent; Sac County, 25 percent to 21 percent; and Shelby County, 25 percent to 22 percent.

According to The New York Times, the national smoking rate has declined steadily, but there is a deep geographic divide. In the affluent suburbs of Washington, only about one in 10 people smoke, according to the analysis, by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. But in impoverished places like this - Clay County, in eastern Kentucky - nearly four in 10 do, The Times reported.

This plays out on an Iowa level as well. Dallas County, with its growing, prosperous Des Moines suburbs chewing up rural areas, saw its smoking rate for all adults drop from 23 percent in 1996 to 16 percent in 2012.

Americans with a high school education or less make up 40 percent of the population, but they account for 55 percent of the nation's 42 million smokers, according to a New York Times analysis of health survey data obtained from the Minnesota Population Center, at the University of Minnesota. Since 1997, the smoking rate for adults has fallen 27 percent, but among the poor it has declined just 15 percent, according to the analysis. And among adults living in deep poverty in the South and Midwest, the smoking rate has not changed at all, according to The Times.