How many smokers are there?

Alabama: 21.5 percent of adults smoke; 14 percent of high school students smoke

Georgia: 17.9 percent of adults smoke; 12.8 percent of high school students smoke

Tennessee: 22.1 percent of adults smoke; 11.5 percent of high school students smoke

Data provided by The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Dade County Schools in Northwest Georgia has joined more than 100 other school districts in the state banning the use of tobacco products on school campuses.

The district recently adopted a 100 percent Tobacco Free Schools policy, joining the other 10 counties in the Georgia Department of Public Health's Northwest Health District, along with another 122 of Georgia's 181 school districts.

Under the Tobacco-Free School policy, no student, staff member or school visitor is permitted to use any tobacco product or e-cigarette on school property.

"Children spend almost a third of their waking time in school, so we are in a uniquely powerful position to play a major role in reducing the serious problem of smoking and other tobacco use by kids," said Jan Harris, superintendent of Dade County Schools, in a statement. "Adopting the 100 percent [tobacco-free] policy in Dade County Schools will have an enormous impact on the current and future health and well-being of our students."

According to the Northwest Health District, almost 13 percent of Georgia high school students smoke, which is higher than the national rate of about 8 percent of students. More than 8.6 percent of Georgia's teens also use e-cigarettes.

"Ninety percent of Georgia's smokers started using tobacco before the age of 18," said Dr. Unini Odama, health director for the Northwest Health District, in the release. "By eliminating tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, in schools, we can reduce the likelihood children in Georgia will start to use tobacco as well as protect children and adults from the effects of secondhand smoke."

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, 5,000 kids under 18 become smokers every day in Georgia.

In Tennessee, the numbers look similar.

Need help quitting?

All Georgians, including students, 13 to 17 years old, can call the Georgia Tobacco Quit Line at 1-877-270-STOP (7867) or 1-877-2NO-FUME (877-266-3863) and receive information about how to quit smoking.

Eleven and a half percent of high school students smoke in Tennessee, compared to about 22 percent of adults, according to the campaign. More than 3,000 new smokers every day are under the age of 18. More than 11,000 Tennesseans die as a result of smoking-related illnesses every year.

Tennessee now ranks 34th nationally in funding for smoking prevention and cessation programs, according to a report released this year by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association and the American Lung Association, among others.

As recently as 2016, the state of Tennessee has been criticized for not doing enough to prevent or help people quit smoking. The state spends about $6 million annually to prevent or fight smoking. In 2015, Hamilton County mayors launched a campaign to discourage smoking in public.

Both Tennessee and Alabama, but not Georgia, were included earlier this year among 12 states that are considered the worst for adult smoking, dubbed 'Tobacco Nation."

Alabama is in that nation, along with Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia.

"Tobacco-free schools save lives," Odama said. "The Dade County Board of Education has demonstrated transformational leadership by eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke in schools and reducing youth tobacco use in Northwest Georgia."

More than 1.4 million Georgia youth now are being protected from the dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke and are encouraged not to use tobacco products under these policies in both public-school districts and at charter schools.

Tobacco use can lead to health problems such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and premature death, according to the U.S. surgeon general.

On the average, lifelong smokers die 13 years sooner than nonsmokers. However, if someone does not begin smoking before the age of 26, data shows it is likely they will never start.

Studies show that eliminating tobacco smoke in an environment can reduce the incidence of heart attack-related hospital admissions by between 10 and 40 percent.

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.