Empty your ashtrays and light up, St. Louis, because a newly released study puts us dead last on the Men's Health list of America's smoke-free cities.
Of 100 cities, St. Louis ranks at No. 100. We're in good company; Kansas City, Missouri, is right behind us at No. 98, just behind Jacksonville, Florida.
"Judging by the overflowing ashtrays in St. Louis, we're calling nicotine a Gateway drug," Men's Health magazine posted this week along with their list. "The city smoked the competition in our ranking of places where folks light up."
The magazine bases the rankings on six factors: the percentage of people who smoke or used to smoke, the percentage of people with COPD, lung cancer case and death rates, local and state cigarette taxes, state and local laws and the average household budget for tobacco products.
So why St. Louis? Men's Health offers few answers other than to say the Show-Me State shows little support for raising tobacco taxes or funding smoking cessation programs.
"The city has a smoke-free policy, but certain places are exempt," says Sarah Bobmeyer, a tobacco policy researcher at Washington University in St. Louis. "The workers aren't protected, and neither are the patrons."
Nationally, the smoking rate has stagnated in the last few years at around 21 percent. More than 22 percent of St. Louisans are smokers, and they go through 14.5 cigarettes a day, according to consumer behavior data from 2011.