Smoking rates in Florida have dropped in general but in some communities, the drop is happening much more slowly than in the rest of the state.
Nowhere is that disparity more pronounced than in Northeast Florida’s Putnam County.
Nearly a quarter of Putnam County adults smoke cigarettes, according to Tobacco Free Florida. Not only is that higher than the state average of 15.5 percent, it’s significantly greater than neighboring St. Johns County, which has the state's lowest adult smoking rate at 13 percent.
Tobacco Free Florida Bureau Chief Kellie O’Dare said a number of factors make Palatka and its surrounding county especially vulnerable.
“We see that smoking is higher in our rural populations, as well as in communities with, generally speaking, lower education level, lower socioeconomic status and also communities that have more racial and ethnic minority populations,” said O’Dare.
Putnam was also last among Florida’s 67 counties in last year’s health rankings by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. According to that report, Putnam’s high school graduation rate is around 55 percent, and more than a third of its children live in poverty.
Tobacco Free Florida’s Kellie O’Dare said her organization is working to tailor its quit-smoking message to Putnam and other communities targeted by tobacco companies.
Smoking Rates In Area Counties
- Baker 19.40%
- Bradford 21.55%
- Clay 17.83%
- Columbia 22.07%
- Duval 18.16%
- Nassau 15.85%
- Putnam 24.89% (highest smoking rate in Fla.)
- St. Johns 13.41%
- Union 24.86%
Smoking rates source: Tobacco Free Florida