Arizona continues to be among the nation’s leaders in tobacco control and is ranked in the top ten in several categories, including tobacco use among adults, youth, and pregnant women. According to national and state surveys, tobacco use declined in the past year by an estimated 40,000 adults and 13,000 high school aged youth. Likewise,

Arizonans are less likely to be exposed to the dangers of secondhand smoke, thanks to smoke-free laws and an increasing number of local policies protecting us at our jobs and public places such as college campuses and local parks throughout Arizona.

Thanks to a statewide effort that included local health departments, community programs, employer promotions, supportive families and friends, and the Arizona Smoker’s Helpline, known as the ASHLine, when 40,000 Arizonans quit smoking in 2015, the resulting cost burden relief to all Arizonans exceeded $250 million according to a CDC estimate on the cost benefits of tobacco cessation.

In the midst of steady progress over the past several years, tragedies continue to occur that are otherwise preventable. More than 800,000 Arizonans still use tobacco, and more than 7,000 of our friends, neighbors and family members will die in 2016 as a result of tobacco-attributed deaths such as heart disease, cancer, lung disease, and stroke. With a life expectancy of 10 to 30 years less than non-smokers, we can all agree that the health burden placed on tobacco users and their loved ones, and the cost burden that we all must bear, is of epic proportion

We can meet our goal of Arizona being the best place to live free of the dangers of tobacco, but we have lots of work ahead of us, and we need your help. If you are a smoker, and like most smokers you don’t want to smoke, call the ASHLine at 1-800-55-66-222. If you are an employer, consider using health plans and worksite wellness programs that aggressively address tobacco cessation. If you are a renter and want to live in a smoke-free environment, contact the Arizona Smoke Free Living coalition.

We may all pay the price of tobacco use at some level, but we also reap the benefits of living in an Arizona that is even healthier and more prosperous through smoke-free living.