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Press Release

Embargoed Until
May 26, 2005, Noon ET
Contact: CDC National Center for Chronic
Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Office of Communication

The Percentage of U.S. Adults Who Smoke
Continues to Decline
World No Tobacco Day is May 31

The percentage of U.S. adults who smoke cigarettes continues to decline, according to an article in this week’s issue of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The study, which uses data from the 2003 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), finds that approximately 21.6 percent of U.S. adults – over 45 million people – are current smokers. That’s down from 22.5 percent in 2002 and 22.8 percent in 2001. The study also found that the 46 million adults who have quit smoking outnumber the 45 million people who continue to smoke – the second straight year this has happened.

“The continuing decline in cigarette smoking by Americans is good news and we congratulate those who’ve successfully stopped smoking,” said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. “We encourage more people to take this very important step to improve their overall health and reduce their risk of disease. We also have resources available to help, including 1-800-Quit Now.”

The study points out that more efforts and programs are needed to reduce the continuing disparities in cigarette smoking by age, race/ethnicity and educational levels.

An event designed to help raise awareness of the dangers of tobacco – World No Tobacco Day – takes place on May 31. This year the focus is on the role of health care professionals in preventing tobacco use. As a second MMWR article reports, while the majority (72 percent to 99 percent) of dental, medical, nursing and pharmacy students from 10 countries believe they should receive training in counseling patients to quit smoking, only a small percentage (5 percent – 37 percent) say they are receiving formal training to do that. The report is collaboration between CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA).

The report is the first of its kind to collect data on tobacco use by health profession students from Albania, Argentina, Bangladesh, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Egypt, India, Philippines, Republic of Serbia and Uganda, as well as their attitudes toward tobacco use and about receiving training in smoking cessation counseling.

In addition, the report finds current smoking rates among third-year health profession students is above 20 percent in seven of the 10 countries studied.

“All health care professionals, from doctors and nurses to pharmacists and dentists, can play a role in preventing and reducing tobacco use,” said Wick Warren, Ph.D., researcher in CDC’s Global Tobacco Control Program. “Along with providing resources and information, they can serve as role models to promote a tobacco-free lifestyle. This study indicates, though, we must also be encouraging future health professionals to not smoke or to quit smoking.”

For copies of the full MMWR articles, visit For more information about World No Tobacco Day, visit the World Health Organization at


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This page last updated May 26, 2005

United States Department of Health and Human Services
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