ANDERSON — Jack Kress, 52, took a long drag on his cigarette letting the smoke fill his lungs and curl around his face.
“They are just nasty,” Kress said. “I only smoke half a pack a day — I’m down to nothing.”
On Saturday, Kress, who lives in Anderson, was standing outside the Village Pantry, 112 E. 14th St., smoking his cigarettes — exactly 50 years after the U.S. Surgeon General said smoking causes illness and death.
Today, warnings are printed in large letters on advertisements and on every cigarette pack with the Surgeon General’s warning.
Warnings that could be written in a foreign language, as far as Kress is concerned.
“I can’t read or write,” Kress said looking down at the glowing end of his cigarette.
Kress said he wants to stop smoking, but said it has been difficult.
“I really think I could quit, but it helps with my nerves,” he said. “I hate smoking them. They take all your air — they are just bad.”
According to an annual report the state files with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 percent of the adult population are smokers. Nationwide, smoking among adults is between 9.3 percent and 26.5 percent. Indiana is ranked 50th among the states for its high population of smokers.
More than 30 percent of the adults in Madison County are smokers.
In the last month, 10 percent of the nation’s youth aged 12-17 smoked a cigarette. More than 11 percent of the youth in Indiana smoked a cigarette.
“What research shows is unlike alcohol and other drugs, tobacco actually trends with lower economic status,” Karesa Knight-Wilkerson, executive director and tobacco control coordinator for Intersect, 630 Nichol Ave. “People who lack a high school diploma or live in poverty have higher tobacco use rates.”
Knight-Wilkerson said survey information collected in Madison County shows monthly use of cigarettes in students is higher than both the state and national averages.