A report by the American Cancer Society found the rate of lung cancer higher in South Jersey than in North Jersey.
Blair Horner, Vice President for advocacy at the American Cancer Society of New York and New Jersey, calls the disparity “a tale of two states.”
He says the findings are based on publicly available cancer data at the state and federal levels. He says the lung cancer rate has a direct correlation to the smoking rate in South Jersey.
“Lung cancer as you know is almost entirely caused by smoking. and in our study we dug a little deeper to look at the same rates by county and we found that Southern Jersey has higher smoking rates than Northern Jersey. so one plus one equals two.”
Lung cancer can take 20 years to develop, so the study was adjusted to account for age.
“What we looked at in terms of the lung cancer rates are an average rate age adjusted from the years 2004 through 2008, that five years are the average lung cancer rates by county. The smoking statistics are the most recent ones.”
North Jersey’s lower smoking rate can be attributed to a couple of factors, he says. The first has to do with income disparities between north and south.
“We believe that one of the reason why Northern Jersey has lower rates is that typically smoking rates decline the more affluent you become and by and large,” says Horner. “[Northern Jersey] counties have average incomes that are higher than Southern Jersey. So that could be a part of it.”
Another positive factor he cites in favor of North Jersey is the influence of neighboring New York City which has had an aggressive anti-smoking program since Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s administration.
“That had an impact not only in New York City but also in suburban counties in New York and we believe it was a contributing factor in suburban counties in Northern Jersey.”
Following New York City’s model, Horner says the findings should serve as a call to action for state policymakers to embark on a serious anti-smoking campaign.
“We now know that it’s more concentrated in the south than in the north. New Jersey does not spend enough money on its tobacco control program. They spend roughly $1 million yet raise a billion dollars in tobacco revenues like tobacco taxes. We think some of that money should be invested in programs to keep kids from starting and to help smokers to quit.”