Andrew Fenelon of Brown University and the Population Council -- a group that conducts biomedical, social science and public health research -- compiled data pertaining to the cause of death in states. By 2004, there was a marked shift in mortality rates to south central states geographically contiguous -- Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee, he said.
Fenelon analyzed five decades of data and said mortality attributable to smoking peaked later in the Central South, but the death rate in the region was also significantly higher, which Felelon suggested might be explained because of persistent smoking.
By 2004, the gap in mortality attributable to smoking between the Central Southern states and states in other regions was exceptionally large: among men, smoking explained as much as 75 percent of the difference between the Central South and other U.S. regions, Felelon said.
Tobacco laws in the South are generally more lenient than the rest of the country. There are 10 states that have no statewide smoking bans in places such a workplaces or restaurants, the study said.
The findings were published in the journal Population and Development Review.