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      Missouri remains ninth worst smoking state, despite health risks

      A new report released by the United States Surgeon General suggests smoking is even more dangerous than previously thought.

      On January 17, Acting Surgeon General Dr. Boris Lushniak released the 32nd report on tobacco. The report links several more major illnesses to smoking, including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and birth defects such as cleft lip and cleft palate.

      Some other risks cited in the report include colon cancer, liver cancer and impaired immune function.

      Missouri retains the ninth highest smoking rate in the country.

      "I think the biggest thing that struck me about this report was their association of stroke to secondhand smoke," said Dr. Daniel Gibson of Capital Region Medical Center. "In the new Surgeon General report, they directly link stroke to nonsmokers who have been exposed to secondhand smoke."

      Despite the enormous health risks, many mid-Missourians still see smoking as a freedom first and a health issue second.

      "It's just like anything else," said Up In Smoke associate L'Wana Hagner. "It's one of the rights that we have. I am a smoker, and I have been for some years. I don't choose to stop, I enjoy smoking cigarettes. It relaxes me."

      With so many more health complications now linked with smoking, it will be up to mid-Missourians to decide whether or not to kick the habit.