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Study: Higher Smoking Rates in Rural Counties

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A new study shows higher rates of smoking in rural Iowa counties.

The Des Moines Register reports that the study says some Iowa counties have double the smoking rates of others.

The national report from the University of Washington says Iowa's Dallas County had the seventh-fastest decline in smoking from 1996 through 2012, when it went from 19.4 percent to 10.9 percent.

The report also shows that all Iowa counties have had declines in smoking, but hen it comes to smoking in rural areas, Curt Wheeler says it's no surprise that it's more common there, than in larger cities. Wheeler is a Certified Prevention Specialist for ASAC in Cedar Rapids.

"I think traditionally, there's been a culture that's been connected to that," Wheeler explained. "A lot of the tobacco marketing is played to that culture."

Wheeler does smoking prevention outreach in Iowa's smaller communities. He said for people living there, quitting is a bigger obstacle.

"Certainly if the culture exists that encourages people to continue using tobacco, such as smokeless tobacco that's been a staple of the rural communities, I think that makes it harder," Wheeler said.

But he and other experts agree there are other reasons smoking is more prevalent in those areas. For one, they don't have the direct influence or physical presence of major hospitals and healthcare providers, which offer smoking outreach programs. They're also more isolated from quality internet access.

"One of the big challenges is, there are a lot of internet programs out there for smoking cessation and a lot of education out there for people through the internet. And in the rural communities, they don't have all that internet access," said Sandy Grimm, clinical specialist at Mercy Medical Center.

Grimm said technology plays a huge role in modern smoking prevention, but it doesn't do any good when people can't access it.

"There are amazing apps on smartphones that patients can use, and they may not have access to those as well," Grimm told us.

Wheeler said many Iowans start the quitting process by speaking with their doctor, but there are many other resources available. Quitline Iowa is one of the most popular, and can be reached by dialing their toll-free number, 1-800-QUIT NOW.

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