A new study shows that not all states are equal when it comes to lung cancer deaths.

According to researchers, southern states have had more number of women dying from lung cancer during the 1960's than during the 1930's. Increasing rates of lung cancer related deaths in women born after the 1950's were found in many southern states, including Tennessee, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Kentucky.

While lung cancer deaths have increased in southern and midwest states, that trend does not apply for every state. California has seen fewer women dying due to lung-cancer over the years while in other states there has been an increase in lung cancer deaths among women, most notably in the south.

Researchers used the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) mortality database for their study. They analyzed records of all white women who died from lung-cancer from 1957 to 2007 in 23 states.

The reason for the number of lung cancer deaths may be due to policies against tobacco use being weaker in southern states compared to other states. California, for example, has been the leader in implementing public policies against tobacco. There were smoke-free offices in California as early as 1970's and the state even increased tobacco taxes in 1998.

"The dramatic rise in lung cancer death rates in young and middle-aged white women in several Southern states points to a lack of effective policies or interventions, like excise taxes and comprehensive smoking bans, that deter initiation of smoking among teenagers and promote smoking cessation among adults," said Ahmedin Jemal, PhD, American Cancer Society vice president of surveillance research.

Recent media reports say that state policies on tobacco use and taxes on cigarettes prevent mothers-to-be from smoking. Also, these policies prevent mothers from getting back to their old smoking habits for at least four months after delivery. 

"Our findings underscore the need for additional interventions to promote smoking cessation in these high-risk populations, which could lead to more favorable future mortality trends for lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases," said Jemal.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.