Tobacco growers won’t care much for the news about the drop in cigarette smoking, and neither will the state of Missouri, which encourages smoking through its lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax.
But most people welcome the news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the cigarette smoking rate for adults has dropped below 18 percent. In fact, the adult smoking rate in the U.S. fell from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 17.8 percent in 2013.
“That is the lowest prevalence of adult smoking since the CDC's National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) began keeping such records in 1965,” the CDC’s website notes. “The report also shows the number of cigarette smokers dropped from 45.1 million in 2005 to 42.1 million in 2013, despite the increasing population in the U.S.”
That’s great public health news, but it’s not equally shared.
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“While smoking rates have dropped, there is a significant need to help those who continue to smoke,” the CDC notes. “Cigarette smoking remains especially high among certain groups, most notably those below the poverty level, those who have less education, Americans of multiple race, American Indians/Alaska Natives, males, those who live in the South or Midwest, those who have a disability or limitation, and those who are lesbian/gay/bisexual.
It makes sense to quit, not just for the smoker, but for people who also become victims of second-hand smoke.
“Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the United States, killing more than 480,000 Americans each year,” the CDC says. “For every person who dies this year, there are over 30 Americans who continue to live with a smoking-related disease. Smoking also takes a devastating toll on our nation's economy, costing more than $289 billion a year (including at least $133 billion in direct medical care for adults and more than $156 billion in lost productivity). In addition, use of other forms of smoking tobacco, which are also very dangerous, such as cigars and hookahs, are not declining. In some populations, especially among young adults and adolescents, use of these products may even be increasing.
“Surveys show that about 70 percent of all cigarette smokers want to quit, and research shows quitting completely at any age has health benefits. Smokers can get free help quitting by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW. There they can get free counseling and information about the seven smoking cessation medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. CDC's Tips From Former Smokers campaign features real people living with the consequences of smoking-related diseases and offers additional quit resources at http://www.cdc.gov/tips, including cessation assistance developed by the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health.”
We still have a lot of work to do to get more people to kick the tobacco habit. Whether it is because of the powerful TV ads featuring sick, longtime smokers, the rising cost of cigarettes or something else, the good news is, the trend of more people giving up smoking is going in the right direction. The Republican-dominated Missouri legislature just has to join the movement and raise the tax on tobacco from a ridiculously low 17 cents a pack to something closer to $2 to $3 a pack. Think of the tax revenue the state could rake in and help more people quit.