A study of cigarette smoking in the 30 largest cities in the United States ranks Memphis third as a percentage of people who smoke behind Wilkes Bare-Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, which came in first.
The cigarette study by Experian Simmons also indicates that Memphis has a serious health crisis from smoking, a problem public health advocates are working to alleviate. In fact, cigarette smoking is the leading cause of more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States, or nearly one in five deaths reported by the Tennessee Health Department.
In Memphis, smokers are turning to electronic smoking devices called e-cigarettes, which have less nicotine than traditional cigarettes, to quit smoking.
The American Journal of Preventative Medicine published a survey on the effectiveness of e-cigarettes to help smokers quit. More than 30 percent of the 222 people who smoked electronic cigarettes, referred to as vaping, were still off cigarettes six months later, the survey said. Also, 70 percent of people using electronic devices more than 20 times a day had quit smoking cigarettes entirely.
In the late 1960s, prototypes for e-cigarettes were developed, but they were not commercially produced until 2004, when they launched in the Chinese market. E-cigarettes have been in the United States for about five years.
Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes generally are battery-operated and use a heating element to heat e-liquid from a refillable cartridge, releasing a chemical-filled vapor. Nearly 500 brands and 7.700 flavors of e-cigarettes are on the market, all without an FDA evaluation determining what’s in them. However, to create an e-liquid, nicotine is extracted from tobacco and mixed with a propylene glycol base. E-cigarettes also may include flavorings, colorings and other chemicals.
Kenneth Ward, professor and director of the division of social and behavioral sciences at the University of Memphis, researched cigarette smoking in the U.S. and Middle East in the aftermath of a disaster.
“Tobacco use is becoming epidemic in developing countries,” he said. “Unless current trends are reversed, tobacco will kill 10 million people annually by the decade of 2020-2030, with a staggering 70 percent of these deaths in developing countries.”