By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
The percentage of smokers in Wyoming’s smallest county is almost twice the state average and is more than double the national average, according to a state report.
The report “Wyoming and County Profiles,” prepared by the state’s Economic Analysis Division by compiling results of various state studies, found that 34.1% of Niobrara’s 2,422 residents reported that they had smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetimes and were currently smoking.
The percentage is the highest in the state and is far above Wyoming’s average of 18.4% residents who identify themselves as smokers.
However, Kim Deti, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, said the figure may be skewed by Niobrara County’s low population.
“I wouldn’t be surprised that Niobrara County numbers are affected by their low population and likely low number of participants in the survey that was the source of that information,” she told Cowboy State Daily.
Wyoming itself ranks 14th in the nation for the percentage of its population that smokes, according to the United Health Foundation.
The percentage of people nationally who identify themselves as smokers is 14%.
Deti said while it may be difficult to say with certainty why Wyoming has a percentage of smokers, several factors may be playing into the number.
“Potential factors include social and cultural attitudes and low perception of harm, low tobacco taxes and no statewide smoke-free policies,” she said. “Some of these factors have been linked to lower smoking rates in other states.”
Following Niobrara County for the highest percentage of smokers, according to the report, is Hot Springs County at 24.5% and Weston County at 24.3%.
At the other end of the spectrum is Teton County at 10.1%.
However, Jodie Pond, Teton County’s health director, said the county has a high percentage of people who use “vapes” rather than cigarettes.