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Smoking rate declining in Georgia, says CDC

Georgia’s smoking rate is showing a steady decline, a new CDC report said Thursday.

Cigarette BurningThe state’s rate of adult cigarette smoking fell from 21.2 percent in 2011 to 20.4 in 2012, then fell to 18.8 percent in 2013.

Georgia’s smoking percentage is lower than other Southern states except for Florida, at 16.8 percent, and Texas, at 15.9 percent.

Overall, 26 states had a drop in cigarette smoking prevalence over that period, the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s use of smokeless tobacco increased from 4.4 percent in 2011 to 5 percent two years later, but that change was too slight to be statistically significant.

While Georgia’s smoking rate decreased, an American Lung Association official said Thursday that the news was not altogether comforting. full story

Breaking down drinking patterns in Georgia

Georgia has lower rates of heavy drinking and binge drinking than the national average, a recently released study found.

The study, published last month in the American Journal of Public Health, found that just 6.9 percent of Georgians are heavy drinkers, versus a national rate of 8.2 percent. Heavy alcohol drinking is defined as exceeding an average of one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men over the past month.

220px-Spirituosen-im-supermarktAnd Georgia’s rate of binge drinking is 15.2 percent, versus 18.3 percent nationally. Binge drinking is defined as consuming four drinks or more for women and five drinks or more for men on a single occasion at least once during the last month.

Nationally, as well as in Georgia, heavy drinking and binge drinking have increased since 2002, according to Drinking Patterns in U.S. Counties from 2002 to 2012.

“Fortunately, we didn’t see change within the [statistical group of] people who reported not drinking,” says Ali Mokdad, professor of global health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) of the University of Washington, one of the study’s authors.

This is the first nationwide study to track trends in alcohol use at the county level. The study focused on Americans ages 21 and older. full story

Governor vetoes agency for older Georgians

As expected, Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday vetoed legislation that would have created a separate state agency devoted to older Georgians.

House Bill 86 had passed overwhelmingly in the General Assembly session.

Photo of the Georgia Capitol BuildingIt would have moved the current Division of Aging Services out of the Department of Human Services. The new agency, the Adult and Aging Services Agency, would have been attached to the Department of Community Health.

Last week, Georgia Health News reported that the main sponsor of House Bill 86, along with health care experts, said they had been told a veto was coming.

The Aging Services bill was among 11 pieces of legislation vetoed by the governor. full story

State developing registry for cannabis oil

The state Department of Public Health said Tuesday that it is working hard on getting a registration process ready for potential users of medical cannabis oil in Georgia.

Rep. Allen Peake

Rep. Allen Peake

The registry is created by House Bill 1, which allows some Georgians with medical conditions to have access to medical cannabis. The measure establishes a process whereby patients with one of eight diagnoses, and a recommendation from a doctor, would register for cannabis oil use with Public Health.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill into law in mid-April. Public Health has up to 60 days to establish the registry and to issue cards to the public.

Shawn Ryan, a spokesman for Public Health, said Tuesday that 13 temporary cannabis cards have been issued. “Temporary cards are not widely available,” Ryan emphasized after the agency board meeting Tuesday.

Most have gone to Georgia families with children in Colorado, he said. full story

Where you’re born can shorten your life

Children born just a few miles apart in Atlanta can have life expectancies that vary by more than 10 years, an analysis shows.

A child born in the 30305 ZIP Code in the affluent Buckhead district can be expected to live to age 84, according to a map recently created by Virginia Commonwealth University researchers.

But across I-75 in northwest Atlanta, a child in the 30318 ZIP Code would have an average life expectancy of 72 years.

Such dramatic differences are not unique to Atlanta, says Steve Woolf, director of VCU’s Center on Society and Health, which has also produced maps on New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas and Richmond.

Atlanta-Map---FINAL JPG

While the Atlanta map is by ZIP Code, the map in Richmond uses census tract information, and shows an even more dramatic split in life expectancy — 20 years.

“We view [the maps] as a conversation starter, to help dramatize the differences in health in urban areas,” Woolf says.  More attention should be paid to conditions that affect socioeconomic well-being, he adds.  full story

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