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Cigarette Smoking Among Adults—United States, 2000

July 26, 2002 / Vol. 51 / No. 29

Press Release

Embargoed until 1 p.m., July 25, 2002
Contact: CDC Office on Smoking and Health
(770) 488–5493

Most smokers want to quit: new study finds broad interest in quitting but success differs among groups

ATLANTA—According to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most smokers want to quit but success rates vary dramatically by demographic group. The report reveals that in 2000, 70% of adult smokers in the United States wanted to quit, and as many as 41% had stopped smoking for at least one day during the preceding year in an effort to quit.

The report shows that among those who had ever smoked, the percentage of those who had quit was low among some populations. For racial and ethnic groups, the percentage of ever smokers who had quit was highest for whites at 51% and lowest for non–Hispanic blacks at 37.3%. Nearly half of the ever smokers above the poverty line had quit. Barely a third of ever smokers below the poverty line had quit. Among educational categories, the percentage of those who had ever smoked and who had quit ranged from 33.6% for those with a GED to 74.4% for those with a graduate degree. The report cites a lack of access to proven treatments for tobacco use as a possible explanation for the lower quit rates among underserved populations.

“People have obviously gotten the message about smoking and want to preserve their health by quitting” said Julie Gerberding, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The fact that so many of them have difficulty attests to the addictive nature of tobacco. Directing more efforts at helping these people to successfully quit smoking will prevent the premature death of millions of Americans.”

According to this report, 23.3% of adults were current smokers in 2000, down from 25% in 1993. Preliminary data for 2001 indicate a continuing decline in current smoking among adults to 22.8%. During 1993–2000, substantial reductions in current smoking prevalence were reported for all age groups, except those aged 18–24 years. This age group, along with persons aged 25–44 years, continues to have the highest smoking prevalence.

“Unfortunately, people who started smoking as teens, perhaps thinking that it would be easy to quit when they got older, are finding that it is a behavior that sticks” said Rosemarie Henson, MSSW, MPH, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “We know what works to help people quit. Expanded access to these cessation interventions is needed to minimize the number of young people who will eventually die early as a result of becoming lifelong smokers.”

The report concludes that if current smoking prevalence among adults in the United States does not decline more rapidly, the national health objective of 12% by 2010 will not be met. The report states that rates will continue to decline only if comprehensive tobacco control programs, including increasing the unit price of tobacco products, running sustained mass media campaigns to increase interest in quitting, and increasing access to effective cessation interventions, are fully implemented nationwide.

“Tobacco use treatment must be better integrated into routine health care.” Said Corinne Husten, M.D., medical officer at the Office on Smoking and Health. “Such integration will require system changes, including making assessment of smoking a standard part of every health care visit.”

This study will appear in the July 25, 2002, issue of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. See more information on CDC’s tobacco control activities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protects people’s health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national, and international organizations.

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