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Smoking rate decline stalls

The nation's battle against smoking appears to have stalled, according to new federal statistics released in two reports Tuesday.

After dropping between 2000 and 2005, the smoking rate since then has remained stuck at about 20 percent -- or about one in five -- U.S. adults, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. In 2009, the latest year for which the CDC has data, 20.6 percent of adults smoked, compared with 20.9 percent in 2005. That translates to about 46.6 million adult smokers.

In addition to putting themselves at risk, smokers also endanger the health of non-smokers by exposing them to secondhand smoke, the CDC said. Four out of 10 non-smoking adults were exposed to cigarette smoke in 2007-2008, the CDC said. In fact, about 88 million non-smoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke and have measurable levels of toxic chemicals from cigarette smoke. Among children between 3 and 11, 54 percent were exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the CDC.

More men than women smoke -- about 24 percent versus about 18 percent, the CDC found. Less-educated people are more likely to smoke than more-educated people. Less than 6 percent of adults with a graduate degree smoke compared with more than 25 percent of adults with no high school diploma. About 31 percent of people who live below the poverty line smoke.

Thomas Frieden, who heads the CDC, noted that smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Each year, about 443,000 people die from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and an additional 8.6 million suffer serious illness from smoking.

The smoking rates vary widely by state. Utah has the lowest smoking rate. Fewer than 10 percent of adults in Utah smoke. Kentucky and West Virginia have the highest smoking rates. About 26 percent of adults smoke in those states.

States that have strong laws that protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke, higher cigarette prices and aggressive advertising campaigns tend to have lower smoking rates. Many of those programs, however, have suffered in recent years as cash-strapped states have shifted resources elsewhere.

While the smoking rate among U.S. teenagers continues to fall, the rate of the decline has also slowed, the CDC reported in July. Twenty percent of high school students still smoke.

By Rob Stein  |  September 7, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  Cancer , Cardiovascular Health , Chronic Conditions , Smoking  
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With an economy this bad, I can't blame anybody for wanting a cigarette. Hopefully once (if?) the economy recovers in 5 or 6 years people will start quiting again.

"Each year, about 443,000 people die from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke..." That number really should be broken out into smoking and 2nd hand. I can see 2nd hand smoke being bad for you, but I'm very skeptical that it's the primary cause of death for many people.

Posted by: Booyah5000 | September 7, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Another thing to consider: geography. Smokers and non-smokers tend to be concentrated in their respective neighborhoods. I am a well-educated, upper middle class non-smoker who rents in a neighborhood full of poorer, less educated smokers.

I do it because its closer to work than a distant suburb. Practically everyone else lights up except me, including entire famillies (both parents, all siblings, cousins, any friends who visit).

It's very easy to see that smoking is a marker of bad behavior, lower intelligence, and terrible money management. My neighbors are chronically short of money yet they waste their money on cigarettes and upkeep of their dogs. They never pay their rent on time yet they come out on their porches for regular smoke breaks like clockwork. Many of them are terribly overweight, covered with tatoos, and look 10-20 years older than their actual age.

If this country truly wanted to make a radical statement about health care, we should ban the manufacture or import of cigarettes and make the act of smoking a crime.

Posted by: coakl | September 7, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

You said: "About 31 percent of people who live below the poverty line smoke." Given the high cost of cigarettes, you might better have put it this way: "About 31 percent of people who smoke live below the poverty line"

Posted by: rclover4 | September 9, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

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