December 25, 1997 in Nation/World

Number Of Smokers Holds Steady, But Most Say They Want To Quit

Associated Press
 

Nearly 25 percent of American adults continued to smoke in 1995, suggesting that the nation will fall short of its goal of 15 percent by the year 2000, the government said Wednesday.

A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 24.7 percent of the nation’s adults, or 47 million people, were smokers in 1995, down only slightly from 24.8 percent in 1994. The numbers haven’t changed much since 1990.

Among the smokers, 24.5 million were men and 22.4 million were women. Smoking levels were higher among people who had not graduated from high school and among those living below the poverty level, the CDC said.

Yet, 70 percent said they wanted to kick the habit, the agency said.

“While we are stuck at 25 percent, we continue to have the vast majority of smokers wanting to quit,” said Michael Eriksen, director of the CDC’s Office of Smoking and Health. “If we could make that wish a reality, we could have the single greatest effect on human health.”

One thing that would help is if all health plans offered counseling and nicotine treatment programs by the year 2000, the CDC said.

About two-thirds of 105 health maintenance organizations surveyed in 1995 offered some coverage of programs or products that help smokers quit.

As of March, only five state Medicaid programs provided reimbursement for smoking counseling or classes to help people quit.

“Even though doctors and health providers all know how harmful smoking is, progressive medicine and health plans still fall short in providing these services or reimbursing for them,” Eriksen said.

Smokers who quit halve their risk of heart disease after a year. After a decade, their risk of lung cancer is half that of continuing smokers. And after five to 15 years, their risk of stroke is the same as that of a nonsmoker, the CDC said.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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