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Fewer Americans smoking, study finds

Tobacco & MarijuanaMay 27, 05

Fewer Americans are smoking, but their numbers are not dropping as quickly as U.S. health officials would like, according to a report issued on Thursday.

The survey finds that 21.6 percent of U.S. adults said they smoked in 2003, down from 22.5 percent in 2002 and 22.8 percent in 2001.

For the second year in a row, more people are former smokers than current smokers, the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds, with nearly 46 million now having kicked the habit.

“It can be done. It is difficult to quit but with persistence and some assistance that can happen,” said Dr. Dave Nelson of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

The CDC report found that 24 percent of adult U.S. men and 19 percent of women were smokers in 2003. Just under 12 percent of Asian-Americans smoked, while American Indians/Alaska Natives had the highest prevalence at 39.7 percent.

The survey indicated that more than 45 million Americans still smoke.

The CDC wants to reduce smoking rates to 12 percent by 2010 and said the current trend is not moving fast enough to reach that goal.

Nelson credits anti-smoking efforts, notably an advertising campaign from the American Legacy Foundation, set up from a court settlement among states and big tobacco companies.

“But we also know that many programs in states have been cut,” he said in a telephone interview.

“It’s a long-term struggle. You can’t stop anti-tobacco efforts and assume things are going to go on indefinitely in the right direction in the future.”

The American Journal of Public Health published several studies this week showing that anti-smoking measures work.


One report showed that smoking prevalence dropped by 11 percent in New York between 2002 and 2003 after the city raised cigarette taxes, banned smoking in workplaces including bars and restaurants and funded a program to distribute free nicotine patches.

A second study found that smokers who could buy low-tax cigarettes from American Indian reservations were half as likely to try to quit, and less able to quit, than smokers who bought full-price cigarettes.

A third study, done in California, where a tobacco-tax increase already helped the state’s smoking rate drop a decade earlier, found adding more taxes made smoking rates drop even further.

Hai-Yen Sung of the University of California, San Francisco and colleagues found that an additional 50-cent-per-pack state cigarette tax that went into effect in 1999 and a 45-cent-per-pack increase in 1998 helped reduce cigarette consumption in the state by 2.4 packs per capita per quarter.

Tobacco use kills 400,000 Americans and 5 million people globally every year, mostly from cancer, emphysema and heart disease. It is projected to kill 450 million people over the next 50 years.

A second CDC survey, done with the World Health Organization and the Canadian Public Health Association, found that many health professionals worldwide smoke, even as they say they want to counsel their patients not to.

As many as 99 percent of dental, medical, nursing and pharmacy students from 10 countries said they should receive training in counseling patients to quit smoking, but just 5 percent actually are.

And more than 20 percent of third-year health profession students were current smokers.

The survey found that 47 percent of pharmacy students in Albania smoked and 18 percent of Serbian medical students, but just 0.5 percent of Ugandan nursing students.

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