Smoking and early death

8AmericsIn the Eight Americas study, researcher Christopher Murray (Harvard School of Public Health) and colleagues present mortality data for various ethnic groups in the United States. The data on median age at death by US county was rather shocking given the wide variation.

The figure at left is for white males only; unfortunately the paper does not contain a figure with aggregate data for both sexes and all ethnic groups. Suffice it to say that charts for women and other ethnic groups look very similar, giving new meaning to the term “Red States”. Since I live right in the middle of that crimson gash, I wondered what causes people here to die so young, compared to their fellow citizens in other areas of the country.

Does the chart below explain it? I used Google Charts to produce this figure. It shows the rate of cigarette smoking by adults, with purple being the lowest and red the highest (I haven’t figured out yet how to put a legend on a Google Chart, so please bear with me).

Of course, cigarette smoking may not be the only cause of early death in the South. But the correspondence between the two figures is striking.

Note, just by looking at the lower graph, you would expect to see a lower age of death in Nevada than in surrounding states (the stench of cigarettes in the casinos was unbearable to me the one and only time I went there). And sure enough, you look at the upper figure and there it is.

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