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Community Health Data Base
An Information Service of the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation

Tobacco and Chronic Disease in Southeastern Pennsylvania
Tuesday. March 23, 2010

March 23, 2010
Contact: Kelley Elliott (267.350.7699 or

About 21% of Area Residents with Chronic Diseases Also Smoke, Adding Potential Medical Complications
The Good News: These Smokers More Likely to Try Quitting

PHILADELPHIA— With non-smokers living an average of ten years longer than smokers , it is heartening to know that a report just released from Public Health Management Corporation’s Community Health Data Base (CHDB) shows that many people in Southeastern Pennsylvania have quit smoking.  While nearly half of adults in the area (46.4%) have ever been cigarette smokers, 20.5% of adults remain smokers. The CHDB data come from the organization’s 2008 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey and 2008 Berks-Lancaster-Schuylkill Household Health Survey.

More than half the smokers (54.1% or approximately 415,000 adults) in the survey area—which encompasses Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery, Philadelphia and Schuylkill counties—have attempted to quit smoking in the past year.  And 60.6% smokers with the chronic diseases of diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure or heart disease tried to quit smoking in the past year, versus 48.6% of smokers without those diseases.

In general, about one-fifth of area adults with those chronic diseases also smoke, including:

• 23.8% (nearly a quarter) who have ever been diagnosed with asthma, or approximately 125,400 in the survey area. 63.6% (approximately 79,800) have attempted to quit in the past year.

• 20.2% who have ever been diagnosed with hypertension or high blood pressure, or approximately 224,000 in the survey area. 61.6% (approximately 137,500) have attempted to quit in the past year.

• 18.9% who have ever been diagnosed with heart disease or other heart problems, or approximately 75,600 in the survey area. 65.8% (approximately 49,700) have attempted to quit in the past year.

• 18.3% who have ever been diagnosed with diabetes, or approximately 70,300 in the survey area. 63.0% (44,200) have attempted to quit in the past year.

 “These data tell us that there is a great need for services to address the health needs of people who smoke and have a chronic disease,” says Rose Malinowski Weingartner, research associate with Public Health Management Corporation.  Smokers are at increased risk for heart disease and are more than twice as likely as non-smokers to die from coronary heart disease . People with high blood pressure who smoke also increase their risk for heart disease  and CHDB data show that 27.5% of the region’s adults ages 40-49 who smoke have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, versus 19.3% of non-smoking adults in their forties. Smokers with diabetes raise their risk for poor health outcomes, including higher blood sugar and other conditions such as heart disease and kidney disease . And the use of tobacco or exposure to tobacco smoke can trigger or intensify an asthma attack .

“Some programs are developing to respond to these health concerns,” says Marlin Williams, program director, of PHMC affiliate Health Promotion Council.  Health Promotion Council (HPC) partnered with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Diabetes and Tobacco Prevention and Control Programs, to develop and implement PA cAARds! The statewide, innovative, integrated initiative funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Office of Diabetes trains Pennsylvania health professionals to use a brief intervention process to refer clients and patients to diabetes education/self-management and tobacco cessation services.  “We believe that PA cAARds! can be adapted to address intervention processes for smokers with other chronic diseases as well, as we look forward to opportunities to develop these programs,” says Williams.

Another initiative – Stay Quit, Get Fit from PHMC affiliate National Nursing Centers Consortium (NNCC) – also addresses the problem by bringing a smoking cessation program to primary care centers with high numbers of chronic disease patients.  Participants with chronic diseases have seen health improvements; for example, 75% lowered their body mass index, 89% improved actual lung capacity and 78% lowered their heart rates, according to NNCC deputy director Laura Line.

The full report of CHDB’s findings appears on the CHDB website here: Chronic Disease and Cigarette Smoking in Eight Counties.

CHDB’s Household Health Survey is one of the largest regional health surveys in the country. The Pew Charitable Trusts, The William Penn Foundation, United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, and over 350 local agencies from the health, government, nonprofit, and academic sectors help to support the CHDB. To view previous data news releases, please click here. For more information, please visit


About PHMC
Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) is a nonprofit public health institute that builds healthier communities through partnerships with government, foundations, businesses and other community-based organizations. It fulfills its mission to improve the health of the community by providing outreach, health promotion, education, research, planning, technical assistance and direct services. PHMC has served the Greater Philadelphia region since 1972. For more information on PHMC, visit

About HPC
Health Promotion Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania (HPC) holds the mission to promote health, prevent and manage chronic disease through community-based outreach, education, and advocacy. Together with its innovative work with underrepresented minority groups and unique programs advocate healthier lifestyles, HPC advances the field of health promotion in Southeastern Pennsylvania and across the state.  For more information on HPC, visit

About NNCC
National Nursing Centers Consortium (NNCC) represents nurse-managed health centers serving vulnerable people across the country. NNCC strengthens the capacity of its members to provide quality health care services to vulnerable populations and to eliminate health disparities in underserved communities. For more information on NNCC, visit