(LOUISVILLE, Ky - November 19, 2019) Nearly one in five women in Kentucky smoked during pregnancy in 2018, according to the 2019 Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book that was released today by Kentucky Youth Advocates (KYA). While the statewide rate of smoking during pregnancy in 2018 was 18.7 percent, about the same as 2017, the number of counties with rates exceeding 30 percent rose from 22 to 24; Lee and Owsley Counties continued to have rates higher than 40 percent. In addition, 29 counties lost ground in 2018, compared to 10 in 2017.

KYA is a Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky partner in efforts to reduce tobacco use in the Commonwealth. Both are founding partners of the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow, which successfully advocated for an increase in the state cigarette tax and a tobacco-free schools law over the last two years.

The Foundation released the following statement regarding 2019 KIDS COUNT County Data Book:

"Smoking during pregnancy remains a serious health problem in Kentucky for both mothers and their babies," said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. "It's an incredibly difficult addiction to break, and it increases health risks for babies both before and after they're born, even raising the risk of Sudden Infant Death syndrome.

"While cigarette sales dropped by 36 million packs in the first year of the cigarette tax increase, it typically takes a little longer to see a decline in smoking rates. Reducing tobacco use takes a combination of policy change, more funding for prevention and cessation, and a constant education campaign," Chandler said. "While Kentucky takes in more than $500 million in tobacco revenues annually and the cigarette tax increase raised $140 million in fiscal 2019, we spent just $3.8 million on prevention and cessation. Our goal in 2020 is to help legislators understand that preventing nicotine addiction in the first place, expanding quit-smoking programs, and increasing education campaigns are essential to reducing smoking during pregnancy as well as the potentially devastating health impacts and $1.92 billion in annual health care costs associated with smoking in the Commonwealth."
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About the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Funded by an endowment, the mission of the nonpartisan Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity. Since the Foundation opened its doors in 2001, it has invested nearly $28 million in health policy research, advocacy, and demonstration project grants across the Commonwealth. Follow the Foundation on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and visit our website at www.healthy-ky.org.

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Alexa Kerley
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