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Smoking Cessation Health Center

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Smoking Rate Is Declining in U.S.

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans Smoke Cigarettes
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 13, 2008 -- The percentage of Americans who smoke cigarettes has fallen below 20% for the first time since at least the mid-1960s, according to a new report.

The CDC says in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that the prevalence of smoking fell in 2007 to 19.8%, nearly a full percentage point from 20.8% in 2006.

"This is good news," Matthew McKenna, MD, MPH, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, tells WebMD. "But deaths related to cigarette smoking are still increasing. Almost one in five adult Americans smoke, and many former smokers are succumbing to their habit again."

Tom Glynn, PhD, director of International Cancer Control of the American Cancer Society, says the CDC report shows that major progress is being made in the government's war on smoking, but hard battles still loom.

"This is the lowest level since the late 1920s, at least," Glynn tells WebMD. "We've gotten back to where we were more than 80 years ago."

The CDC says cigarette smoking prevalence has been dropping steadily among Americans 18 and older since it began keeping records in 1965, when 42.4% smoked. The proportion dropped below 30% for the first time in 1987, when 28.8% of Americans smoked.

"We think the proportion is dropping because of excise taxes that make cigarettes more expensive, smoke-free laws [that apply to most workplaces], and the availability of counseling and medications," McKenna says.

In 2007, the CDC says 22.3% of adult males and 17.4% of adult women smoked. It says 19.8% of African-Americans smoked in 2007, and 21.4% of whites.

The CDC says 443,000 deaths annually are attributed to tobacco use.

Lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death among men and women, kills about 157,000 Americans a year. A greater number of people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

Trying to Quit Smoking

"The most important thing people can do if they are smoking is to quit," McKenna says. "These studies show 30% to 40% of smokers try to quit, but chances of being successful without help are only 4% to 5%."

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