Kentucky, with the nation’s highest lung cancer death rate, loses 3,200 citizens every year to lung cancer.
This devastating disease costs Kentucky the equivalent of the number of deaths at Pearl Harbor every 9 months. As an Internal Medicine and hospice physician practicing in Eastern Kentucky, I have seen the horrific toll that lung cancer takes on Kentucky families. I have seen their misery and tried to ease their suffering during my hospice house calls.
But this deadly cancer, which preys on our less educated and poorest citizens, is not a part of our state’s landscape, or written in our genetics. This disaster is almost entirely man-made.
We all know that smoking causes over 90% of lung cancer. Kentucky’s college educated citizens have smoking rates around 11% and for them, lung cancer is rare. But among those with less than a high school education, living in poverty, those with disabilities or mental illness, cigarette smoking rates can exceed 50%, and this is why Kentucky’s cancer mortality has remained so stubbornly high.
We can protect our most vulnerable citizens and eliminate lung cancer by working together to stop our young people from starting this addictive habit.
It is important for Kentuckians to take action against lung cancer. Learn about your risk. If you smoke - quit, and urge your state legislators to support proven tobacco control policies, such as:
- Increasing tobacco taxes and equalizing rates across all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes
- Fully funding state tobacco prevention programs at the CDC’s recommended levels; and
- Raising the minimum age of sale for all tobacco products to 21 years old with strong enforcement requirements.
Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in the U.S. and Kentucky. If we come together, we can put an end to this deadly disease.
Dr. Anthony Weaver