Franklin County is above the state and national averages when it comes to the percentage of residents who smoke, a new survey shows.
Despite the high smoking rates, the Franklin County Commission opposes implementing smoking restrictions on businesses.
According to the study released in March, Franklin County in 2012 ranked at 2,563 out of 3,143 counties in the country when it comes to the number of females who smoke.
Likewise, Franklin County ranked 2,103 for the prevalence of male smoking.
An official with the organization that conducted the study touted smoking bans as a way to reduce smoking.
For instance, if there are fewer places where smoking is allowed, people are less likely to pick up the habit, said William Heisel, director of communications for Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which is in Seattle.
But Franklin County Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer has said it is not the government’s job to protect people from “womb to tomb.”
First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker said he is a strong believer in personal property rights.
“People can do what they want on their property as long as they are within the limits of the law,” Brinker said.
There is no debate over whether the bans work, Heisel said, adding that they are a big factor in driving down smoking rates.
The city of Washington last year approved a smoking ban for public places.
Griesheimer said he does not think the county has authority to enact smoking restrictions.
Questions Study’s Accuracy
In 2012, 27.6 percent of males in Franklin County were smokers compared to 22.2 percent nationally and 26.5 percent in Missouri, the study states.
And 25.5 percent of females in Franklin County were smokers in 2012 compared to 17.9 percent nationally and 23.1 percent in Missouri.
Brinker questioned the validity of the statistics, saying he is not sure the numbers are correct. He asked if the group polled everyone in the county.
“You’ve got to be careful with those studies,” Brinker said.
With males and females combined, 26.6 percent of Franklin County residents were smokers in 2012 compared to 20 percent nationally and 24.8 percent for Missouri in 2012.
Boone County is the only county in Missouri that had a lower percentage of female smokers than the national average.
Platte, St. Charles and Boone were the only counties in the state lower than the national average for male smokers.
Missouri is a “smoking state,” Heisel said.
Higher income areas have seen faster declines in smoking versus lower income areas, Heisel noted. Missouri is a mix of strong and weak economic areas, he pointed out.
Franklin County’s life expectancy for males was below the national average for 2010, the report shows.
For males, the life expectancy was 73 years in Franklin County compared to 75 in Missouri and 76 nationally. For females, the life expectancy in Franklin County was 80 years old, which was the same as the state, and one year less than the national average of 81.