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The findings document a major social shift in how smoking is perceived and the impact of that shift, Steven Schroeder, MD, tells WebMD.
Schroeder runs the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California, San Francisco.
The change is even more dramatic considering the efforts by tobacco companies to promote smoking, he says.
"They have spent billions to get us to smoke or smoke more, and yet we have seen this amazing social change in just a few decades," he says.
But in an editorial accompanying the study, Schroeder notes that the change has not come equally to all, with educationally and economically disadvantaged Americans continuing to smoke in high numbers.
And he notes that smoking rates are highest among the members of society who are most disadvantaged -- people who suffer from mental illness or substance abuse.
"Further stigmatizing these people is not a compassionate act," Schroeder says. "We have to figure out how to love the smoker and hate the smoking."