- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The U.S. adult smoking rate fell to its lowest recorded point in 2013, although cigarette smoking remains high in certain population groups, the federal government said Wednesday.

In 2005, there were about 45 million cigarette smokers or about 21 percent of the adult population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said. By 2013, though, these numbers fell to 42 million and around 18 percent of adults.

That marks “the lowest prevalence of adult smoking” since 1965, when the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) began keeping records about adult smoking, the CDC said.

Antismoking advocates welcomed the new data, but said it showed that efforts to snuff out smoking are still inadequate.

“While it is good news that smoking continues to decline, it is disappointing and unacceptable that we’re not making greater progress in reducing smoking, the number one cause of preventable death,” said Susan Liss, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

States have cut back on “proven strategies” such as preventing tobacco use, encouraging people to quit, higher tobacco taxes, and smoke-free laws, she said.

Unless the nation makes a serious commitment to reduce death and disease caused by tobacco, “5.6 million children alive today will die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases,” said Ms. Liss.

The American Lung Association (ALA) has also lamented the lack of decline in youthful use of cigarettes and cigars — studies show that about 13 percent of high school students smoke cigarettes and 12 percent smoke cigars.

The ALA and its allies are urging the Obama administration to give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over products such as cigars, pipe tobacco, hookahs, vaporizers and e-cigarettes.

“No tobacco product is safe and all are addictive,” the ALA said in a letter this summer to the FDA, noting that studies have found nicotine in e-cigarettes despite claims that they are nicotine-free.

The CDC’s new data on adult smoking, released in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found that cigarette smoking remains relatively popular in several demographic groups.

Men (21 percent) are more likely to smoke than women (15 percent), and people with lower educations are more likely to smoke than highly educated ones: Only about 6 percent of people with a graduate degree and 9 percent with an undergraduate degree smoke, compared with 22 percent of those with a high school diploma and 41 percent with a high school-equivalency certificate.

Other groups with relatively high cigarette prevalence include people who live in poverty (29 percent), people with a disability (23 percent), and people who are gay or lesbian (27 percent).

Among the 32.4 million adults who smoked every day in 2013, the CDC report found a decline in heavy smoking. Those who smoked 30 or more cigarettes a day fell from about 13 percent of daily smokers in 2005 to 7 percent in 2013.

However, it also found increases in daily smokers who lit up nine or fewer cigarettes a day (16 percent to 23 percent) and 10 to 19 cigarettes a day (36 percent to 40 percent.)

In addition, the “some day” smokers — sometimes called “chippers” or “social smokers” — rose from about 9 million in 2005 to almost 10 million in 2013, said the report, which is based on NHIS interviews with nearly 35,000 adults.

“Cutting back” does not produce the same health benefits as “quitting completely,” cautioned Brian King, senior scientific adviser with the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.

“Smokers who quit before they’re 40 years old can get back almost all of the 10 years of life expectancy smoking takes away,” he said.

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