The 8 Worst States for Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is a particularly tricky issue for physicians and public health officials alike. These states are struggling the most with the disease.

Lung cancer is a particularly tricky issue for physicians and public health officials alike.

On the one hand, data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows lung and bronchus cancer has the highest death rate of any cancer, killing 46 people per 100,000 nationally, according to 2011 data.

On the other hand, many patients have the power to significantly lower their risk of getting the disease; all they have to do is quit using tobacco products. As a result, many states have taken aggressive stances toward cigarettes and other tobacco products in an effort to raise revenue and discourage tobacco use.

The personal finance website WalletHub recently took a look at how the 50 states (and the District of Columbia) are fighting lung cancer and how well those efforts are working. States were ranked on a total of 11 factors, including air quality, death rates, and cigarette taxes.

Hawaii finished first on the list. The state’s rate of lung and bronchus cancers—and its death rate—is far lower than the national averages. In second place was the District of Columbia, followed by Alaska, Utah, and New Jersey.

Below are the 8 states that scored lowest on the list. In addition to the state's overall rank from WalletHub, the listings also include the state's rank in terms of environmental facotrs and in terms of prevalance and prevention of the disease. The explanatory summaries utilize 2011 cancer data from the CDC and 2013 cigarette pricing data from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Environmental Rank: 43

Prevalence and Prevention Rank: 45

West Virginia scores poorly in a number of categories. It’s the second-cheapest state in the nation to buy cigarettes. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the state’s tax on cigarettes is 55 cents per pack, meaning an average pack costs just $4.79. Estimates of new lung cancer cases are also high in the state, which has the second-highest death rate from lung cancer of any state, according to WalletHub’s data.

Indiana

Environmental Rank: 45

Prevalence and Prevention Rank: 43

Indiana has a lung and bronchus cancer rate of 72.5 cases per 100,000 people, significantly higher than the national average of 61 per 100,000, according to 2011 data from the CDC. The state’s death rate from lunch cancer—54.5 per 100,000 people—is also higher than the national average (46 per 100,000 people). That’s largely due to the fact that the state has one of the highest smoking rates in the nation, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Environmental Rank: 41

Prevalence and Prevention Rank: 49

Tennessee has the fourth-highest rate of adult tobacco use of any state, and also ranks in the top 5 in terms of new lung cancer cases and lung cancer deaths. A pack of cigarettes costs about $4.75, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. CDC data suggests, however, that for each pack sold the state incurs $8.70 in health-related costs.

Environmental Rank: 48

Prevalence and Prevention Rank: 46

Kentucky has the third-lowest cigarette costs and the second-highest per-capita tobacco-use rate, according to WalletHub. The state’s rate of lung and bronchus cancer is 150% that of the nation — topping out at 93.5 per 100,000 cases, according to the CDC. The state recorded 69.1 deaths from lung and bronchus cancer per 100,000 people in 2011, the agency said.

Environmental Rank: 50

Prevalence and Prevention Rank: 44

A pack of cigarettes costs about $4.81 in Mississippi, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The state charges 68 cents in taxes per pack, and retailers in Mississippi sell about 191 million packs each year. The CDC says 59.3 people will die of lung and bronchus cancer for every 100,000 residents in the state.

Environmental Rank: 47

Prevalence and Prevention Rank: 50

South Carolina’s prevalence of lung cancer isn’t as bad as some others on the list, just 65.3 cases per 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 61, according to the CDC. However, the state scores poorly in preventing the disease, in part because it has some of the lowest cigarette prices in the nation ($4.77 per pack, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids). The state incurs health costs of $7.66 for each pack sold, according to CDC data.

Environmental Rank: 49

Prevalence and Prevention Rank: 51

Alabama’s per-pack cigarette tax is only 42.5 cents per pack, meaning the retail price of a pack was just $4.61, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The CDC says about 56.9 people die of lung and bronchus cancers for every 100,000 people in the state, significantly higher than the 46 per 100,000 people national average.

Environmental Rank: 51

Prevalence and Prevention Rank: 48

Missouri hasn’t increased its cigarette taxes since 1993, making it one of only 2 states to keep cigarette taxes static since the dawn of the new century. The 17-cent tax means a pack of cigarettes costs only about $4.51, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. By contrast, New York’s per-pack tax of $4.35 brings the price of a pack to $10.11, according to the campaign. Lung and bronchus cancers have the highest death rate of any cancer in the state, killing about 55.1 people per 100,000 residents, according to the CDC.

Want to see more? View the complete list over at WalletHub.