U.S. smoking rate puffs up slightly
ATLANTA – Cigarette smoking rose slightly for the first time in almost 15 years, dashing health officials’ hopes that the U.S. smoking rate had moved permanently below 20 percent.
A little under 21 percent of U.S. adults said they smoked, according to a 2008 national survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up slightly from the year before, when just 19.8 percent said they were smokers. It also is the first increase in adult smoking since 1994, experts noted.
The increase was so small, it could be just a blip, so health officials and experts say smoking prevalence is flat, not rising. But they are unhappy.
“Clearly, we’ve hit a wall in reducing adult smoking,” said Vince Willmore, spokesman for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a Washington, D.C.- based research and advocacy organization.
There’s a general perception that smoking is a fading public health danger. Feeding that perception are indoor smoking laws, cigarette taxes and Congress’ recent decision to allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco.
But health officials believe gains have been undermined by cuts in state tobacco control campaigns.
Cigarette marketing has persisted and is effectively reaching kids and minorities with messages about flavored or menthol products, said Dr. Clyde Yancy, president of the American Heart Association.
The tobacco industry also has been discounting cigarettes to offset tax increases and keep smokes affordable, Willmore said.
The adult smoking rate has been dropping, in starts and stops, since the mid-1960s when roughly 2 out of 5 U.S. adults smoked. Now it’s 1 in 5. However, federal health goals for the year 2010 had hoped to bring the rate down to close to 1 in 10.
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