In Oregon, like the rest of the country, tobacco use continues to be a leading cause of preventable death, exacerbating and causing a range of chronic, costly and often-debilitating diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Though decades of public health efforts have pushed U.S. smoking rates to historic lows, people with intellectual disabilities use tobacco at disproportionately higher rates than the general population. However, research shows that people with intellectual disabilities who use tobacco are just as likely to want to quit as their tobacco-using peers who do not have intellectual disabilities. Such disparities must be addressed if life-saving cessation resources are to be made accessible to people with intellectual disabilities.
Cigarette smoking among Oregon adults has dropped significantly in the last two decades, however big disparities still remain between the general population and those with disabilities. According to data from the Oregon Health Authority, about 17 percent of Oregon’s general population reports current smoking; however, among people with disabilities, the rate is closer to 46 percent. To further complicate the matter, there is little research focused on tobacco use by type of disability. What is known, however, is that people with intellectual disabilities who use tobacco products are just as likely to want to quit as their peers without intellectual disabilities.
“When you look at the numbers and see who’s using tobacco, it simply can’t be ignored,” said Kirsten Aird, MPH, Cross Agency Systems Manager in the Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Section of the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division. “So the question was how do we make the system available to everyone? How do we make sure everyone knows about our (tobacco cessation) resources and can access them?”
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