CDC: No Change in Adult Smoking Rates
Article date: September 8, 2010
By: Eleni Berger
The percentage of US adults who smoke has remained essentially unchanged since 2005, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 20.6% of adults – 46.6 million people -- smoked in 2009, the agency reports.
At the same time, exposure to secondhand smoke has gone down – although 88 million nonsmokers are still breathing in smoky air, the agency says.
"We hope this report is a wake-up call to the continuing threat that tobacco use causes," said CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden, in a press briefing. "We know still that tobacco kills more Americans than any other preventable cause of death. There's a lot more that we can do to reduce tobacco use."
Disparities in smoking rates, exposure
The new statistics, published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, used national and state surveys to determine the number of adults who smoke. Figures on secondhand smoke exposure were based on surveys and blood tests for cotinine, a nicotine byproduct.
The surveys showed that smoking is more common among men than women, and more common among those below the federal poverty level and those with less education. Smoking rates are lower in Western states, higher in the South and Midwest.
Secondhand smoke exposure declined from 52.5% in 1999-2000 to 40.1% in 2007-2008.Of the 88 million non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke, 32 million are children between the ages of 3 and 19.
The report attributes the drop in secondhand smoke exposure to declining smoking levels in the US during that time span and wider bans on smoking in indoor workplaces and public places. The decline in secondhand smoke exposure occurred only for non-smokers who are not exposed to smoke at home.
Hundreds of thousands of lives, billions of dollars lost
The steady smoking rate and high number of people exposed to secondhand smoke are areas of concern because of the huge toll that smoking takes on people's health.
Each year, cigarette smoking causes around 443,000 premature deaths in the United and $193 billion in direct health costs and lost productivity, according to the CDC report. Smoking is known to cause multiple types of cancer, as well as heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and other health problems.
Secondhand smoke is also dangerous, causing heart disease and lung cancer in adult non-smokers, and sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory infections, and decreased lung function in children.
Do what we know works
Given the widely known risks, why aren't smoking rates dropping? Frieden sees a number of reasons.
"The [tobacco] industry has gotten even better at side-stepping laws designed to get people to stop smoking," he said, citing price discounts, new flavored tobacco products that appeal to children, and marketing that suggests some products are less harmful.
"Government is also not doing what it needs to reduce smoking," Frieden added. "Comprehensive, evidence-based programs are not being widely implemented."
If all states funded tobacco control efforts at the level the CDC recommends, he noted, there could be 5 million fewer smokers in the US by 2015.
Doctors also need to do more to encourage their patients to quit smoking and help them find resources to help, he says.
The American Cancer Society can help if you're ready to quit smoking. See our Guide to Quitting Smoking or call us at 1-800-227-2345.
Reviewed by members of the ACS Medical Content Staff
ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases.
Thank you for your feedback.