Lung cancer decrease rates in AR catching up to the rest of the U.S.

BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) - A new analysis of lung-cancer data suggests tobacco control efforts are having a major impact on Americans' health, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

Nationally, the rate of new lung cancer cases decreased in the U.S. from 2005 to 2009, according to a report in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"The drop in the nations' rates of lung cancer has been trending down for years. Finally we are seeing that in Arkansas. Further, we are seeing a statistically significant drop in rates from 2005 - 2009 that may be even faster than the nation's," said Dr. Wheeler, Medical Director for the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program. "While our incidence and rates of lung cancer and mortality is nearly 1/3 higher than the nation, fewer people in Arkansas are starting to smoke and more are quitting."

Odale Jones, pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church in Blytheville, gave up cigarettes after 19 years of smoking.

"I started when I was 16 years old in 1970 and I smoked until 1989."

Pastor Jones said the worst ailment he battled because of his habit was a chronic cough, as opposed to a more serious condition such as lung cancer.

Jones and Clopton Clinic oncologist Dr. Mazen Khalil said while they are encouraged by the decline, there is still more work to do in the state in terms of cessation and prevention.

"In Arkansas, we rank fourth in the country when it comes to rate of smoking, and that really explains why we have a higher incidence of lung cancer in Arkansas compared to other states in the country," said Dr. Khalil.

"The number of women being diagnosed with lung cancer and dying from lung cancer is not decreasing. It's plateaued for the last five to 10 years and we have not seen a decline yet."

Pastor Jones works with the Mississippi County Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas in hopes of helping anyone who wants to kick the habit.

"It's easy to quit smoking now because there's so much help in it. Before there used to not be very much encouragement to quit smoking, but as high as cigarettes are today that's incentive enough never to get started," said Pastor Jones.

Tobacco costs Arkansas nearly $2 billion in direct health and indirect economic costs every year, according to the ADH. 

To learn more about tobacco control initiatives, visit or call the Arkansas Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.  to learn more about free nicotine replacement therapy and other services. For more information about youth initiatives to prevent smoking visit

For more information about the Mississippi County Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas call First Missionary Baptist Church at (870) 763-7105.

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