Decline in Adult Smoking Stalls, Alarming
TUESDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Although the hazards of
smoking are well known, 20 percent of Americans still light up,
U.S. health officials said Tuesday.
The number of adult smokers dropped between 2000 and 2005, but
the decline has leveled out, according to a new report from the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"The 40-year decline in tobacco in the United States has stalled," CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said during an early afternoon press conference.
"Between 2005 and 2009 there was no further reduction in tobacco use," he said. And despite progress nearly 90 million American non-smokers are exposed to toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke."
Frieden laid the blame for the stalled smoking decline on the
doorstep of the tobacco industry.
"The industry has gotten even better at sidestepping laws designed to get people to stop smoking," he said. "They ensure that every cigarette they sell is designed to deliver nicotine quickly and efficiently to keep people addicted."
In addition, the industry uses marketing techniques to get
children to start smoking. And they create new products that get
around laws to attract new smokers, Frieden said.
More men (24 percent) than women (18 percent) were smoking in
2009, says the report, which also found that people with less
education and lower incomes were more likely than others to
Thirty-one percent of smokers live below the poverty level, and
25 percent never graduated from high school compared with 6 percent
of those with graduate degrees, the report says.
Moreover, secondhand smoke remains a serious problem for 88
million nonsmokers. For example, 54 percent of children aged 3 to
11 are exposed to secondhand smoke, and 98 percent of kids living
with a smoker have measurable levels of toxic chemicals from
cigarette smoke, the report says.
Black nonsmokers are twice as likely as Mexican-American
non-smokers and 33 percent more likely than white non-smokers to
have measurable exposure to tobacco, the researchers say.
Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at
Yale University School of Medicine, said a five-year stall in
smoking rates suggests both "that those who now smoke may be
diehards and tough to convert, and that perhaps we got a bit too
complacent way too soon."
"Our goal should be nothing less than the elimination of tobacco use," Katz said. "This report tells us of the need to rededicate ourselves to this cause, and allocate the requisite resources."
Smoking and secondhand smoke exposure led to 443,000 deaths in
2009, making smoking the leading cause of preventable illness and
death in the United States, the CDC said.
"These results underscore the need for every state and community to enact comprehensive smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces and public places, including restaurants and bars," Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement Tuesday.
Twenty-eight states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and more than
550 cities have laws requiring smoke-free restaurants and bars,
"The high level of child exposure to secondhand smoke also underscores the need for parents to take additional steps to protect children, such as ensuring that homes, cars and other places frequented by children are smoke-free," he added. "For parents who smoke, the best step to protect children is to quit smoking."
Smoking rates vary by region and state. One problem is that
states are cutting back on the money they devote to tobacco control
programs, Frieden said. "If all states funded tobacco control at
the CDC recommended level there would be an estimated 5 million
fewer smokers in this country, and that would prevent at least 1
million deaths," he said.
Last year, Utah and California had the fewest smokers.
California's comprehensive tobacco control program has resulted in
a decline in lung cancer at a rate four times faster than in the
rest of the country, the CDC noted.
The good news, Frieden said, is that tobacco use
can be reduced. "Tobacco control measures work. Places that
implement tobacco control programs get dramatic results," he
In Washington state the smoking rates is less than 15 percent,
in California it's less than 13 percent and in Rhode Island and
Massachusetts it's less than 15 percent, Frieden said.
In addition, those who smoke may be smoking less. "Cigarette
sales have declined significantly, especially in 2009 when the
federal cigarette tax increased by 61 cents per pack," said
"This decline in cigarette consumption could be a precursor to declines in the smoking rate, especially if proven tobacco control measures are implemented more aggressively," he added.
For more information on quitting smoking, visit the
for Disease Control and Prevention.
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