UW-Milwaukee: How many Wisconsinites smoke? It varies widely by county

MILWAUKEE — A study by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) shows tobacco use varied greatly across the state during 2006 through 2008, offering a more accurate picture of smoking than the state average prevalence, which was 19.5 percent for the same time period.

The study, released today, shows that Ozaukee County had the lowest prevalence of smoking in Wisconsin at 13.3 percent of its population – followed by Lafayette County with 14.2 percent, Waukesha County with 14.3 percent and Dane County with 14.8 percent.

The highest prevalence in Wisconsin was observed in Menominee County, with smoking being reported by 34 percent of adults, followed by Marquette County with 28.9 percent, Rock County with 27.1 percent and Lincoln County with 25.7 percent

“We commonly use the state’s overall prevalence of smoking as an indicator of how Wisconsin is doing in terms of tobacco prevention efforts,” said Karen Palmersheim, PhD, researcher at UWM’s Center for Urban Initiatives and Research (CUIR) and lead study author.

But during 2006, 2007 and 2008, the Wisconsin Division of Public Health Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, along with support from a number of state partners, expanded surveillance efforts in order to provide more reliable estimates of health conditions and risk behaviors at the county level.

“The considerable variability at the county level is important information,” Palmersheim said.

“The state average suggests that one out of five Wisconsin adults is a current smoker. However, this study shows that in some counties – for example, several in the Northeast and Southeast parts of the state – the smoking prevalence is one out of four, and even one out of three.”

“The results of the study underscore the need for continued comprehensive tobacco prevention efforts in Wisconsin,” she added.

Data for the study came from the state’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), part of a national telephone-based survey of health conditions, health risk behaviors and the use of preventative services among non-institutionalized adults. Wisconsin has been participating in this surveillance system since its inception in 1984.

The full report is online at: http://www.cuir.uwm.edu.

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(CONTACT: Karen Palmersheim, 608-516-6063, [email protected])