Americans Slowly Snuffing Out Smoking Habit, Report Finds

Americans are puffing less, but public health officials say the decline in cigarette smoking is frustratingly slow.

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 19.3 percent of U.S. adults last year were cigarette smokers, down from 20.6 percent the year before and 20.9 percent in 2005. The decline reduced the number of American smokers by about 3 million since 2005, down to 45.3 million.

What’s more, people who still smoke are lighting up less. For example, the percentage of smokers who go through more than a pack-and-a-half a day dropped to 8.3 percent in 2010, down from 12.7 percent in 2005.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, higher cigarette taxes, anti-smoking media campaigns and laws and societal changes have curbed the habit in recent decades. Even so, the decline has been slow lately, which the CDC blamed on inadequate funding for state anti-tobacco programs and cigarette companies’ price discounting.

At this pace, the percentage of adults who smoke will be 17 percent in 2020 — well above the federal goal of 12 percent.

The Boston Globe reports that Dr. Tom Frieden, the CDC’s director, said at a media briefing that there is “a misperception that we’ve reached an irreducible minimum for smoking rates, and that’s very far from the truth.’

“We know it’s possible to drive down tobacco rates substantially more than we have already,” he added.

While state funding cuts have slowed anti-smoking media campaigns, the tobacco industry is spending $15 billion a year to promote its products, according to an estimate by Dr. Michael Siegel, a public health professor at Boston University. “The tobacco companies are winning the battle,” Siegel said.

STUART SILVERSTEIN

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