Utah definitely is not Marlboro Country, according to almost every category or statistic about smoking in the U.S. surgeon general's newest annual report on tobacco use.
The report, released this week, shows that a lower percentage of Utahns smoke than in any other state and that Utah has the toughest laws anywhere on tobacco advertising, minors' access to tobacco and smoking in public places.In fact, the only categories in which Utah isn't the absolute toughest on tobacco is in the use of snuff and other smokeless tobacco and in the amount of its excise taxes on cigarettes. Utah is only moderately tough in those areas.
Of course, the most obvious reason behind that is the predominance in Utah of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which preaches abstinence from tobacco. Still, the toughness tobacco faces in Utah as shown in the statistics may be surprising.
For example, not only does a smaller percentage of the population smoke in Utah than in any other state, but the percentage is a whopping 33 percent smaller than the next closest state.
The report says 14.1 percent of Utah adults smoke. The next lowest state is Idaho, where 24.1 percent of adults smoke. The state with the highest percentage is Nevada, where 35.7 percent of adults smoke - two and a half times the percentage in neighboring Utah.
Regarding state regulation of tobacco ads, the report says, "The strongest state law has been adopted in Utah where tobacco advertisements have been banned on `any billboard, streetcar sign, streetcar, bus, placard or on any other object or place of display.' "
It adds that Utah and Minnesota are the only two states that have outlawed the distribution of free smokeless-tobacco samples for advertising purposes.
Utah is also rated among the toughest in its laws regulating smoking in public places and work sites. The report rates state laws in that area from a 0 to a 4, with a "4" being the toughest. Utah was one of 13 states whose laws were rated a "4."
It says Utah bans smoking in public transportation facilities, elevators, recreational facilities, stores, restaurants, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, government buildings, public meeting rooms and libraries.
Utah is also one of only six states that require government agencies to designate smoking and non-smoking areas at work sites, and one of only four states that require the same of private employers.
Regarding minors' access to tobacco, the report says Utah and Alaska are the only states where 17- and 18-year-olds cannot legally buy cigarettes. Purchasers must be 19.
Utah also appears to tie with Nebraska for the overall toughest laws about minors and tobacco. Utah prohibits the sale, use, possession and free distribution of tobacco to minors, requires signs saying that at sales points and prohibits minors' access to cigarette vending machines.
In contrast, eight states have no laws about minors and tobacco - including having no minimum age to buy cigarettes.
But Utah's tough-guy image on tobacco goes up in smoke a bit when it comes to smokeless tobacco.
The report says 3.7 percent of Utahns older than 16 use some sort of smokeless tobacco. Nineteen other states have percentages as low or lower. The lowest are Hawaii and New Jersey, where 0.7 percent use it. The highest is West Virginia where 23.1 percent use it.
Also, 3.0 percent of Utahns use chewing tobacco - and 24 other states have percentages as low or lower. And 0.9 percent of Utahns use snuff - while 15 other states have percentages as low or lower.
Utah is also not - repeat not - among the toughest states in its excise tax on cigarettes.
The report says 12 states have cigarette taxes higher than 26 cents a pack, but Utah is not among them. Utah is among the eight states it says has cigarette taxes of between 21 and 25 cents a pack.