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Smoking declines in N.W. Ohio significantly

COLUMBUS - Smoking among Ohio adults dropped 4 percentage points in the last year, according to a survey of 4,000 adults released yesterday by the state Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Foundation.

The most dramatic drop was seen in northwest Ohio, where the rate of 32.2 percent in 2003, then the highest in the state, declined to 20.4 percent last year.

The Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Foundation is behind the massive "Stand" anti-smoking media campaign financed by Ohio's share of the national Master Settlement Agreement between the major tobacco companies and 46 states.

The foundation survey, with a margin of error of 2 percent, showed that the percentage of smokers in the state declined from 25.9 percent in a similar survey in 2003 to 21.9 percent in 2004.

Foundation Executive Director Mike Renner conceded that such a dramatic drop in one year could be the result of a statistical blip, and that it remains to be seen whether the numbers will bear out in the next survey to be conducted this summer and released next year. Last year's survey had a margin of error of 3 percent.

Of northwest Ohio's significant dip in smoking, Mr. Renner said: "Toledo was number one in the nation three years ago. Secondly, we note that Toledo had a clean indoor air ordinance for most of the year during which this data was collected. Studies from other states indicate that clean indoor air is a motivation to people to want to seek assistance to stop."

While the study suggests smoking among adult males remained largely unchanged over the year, smoking among women declined from 30.3 percent to 26.1 percent, while smoking among African Americans in general dropped from 27.9 percent to 21.1 percent.

The total purported decline of 4 percentage points in the number of Ohio smokers represents a decline of some 375,000 people. Mr. Renner noted these could be people who chose to give up the habit or a reflection that older smokers have died and have not been replaced with younger smokers.

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