Thursday, September 9, 2010

Declines in Adult Smoking Prevalence Have Come to a Halt

This week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) was dedicated to new and disappointing findings in tobacco control. In addition to the article on secondhand smoke exposure, referenced in a Partnership blog posted yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also published, “Vital Signs: Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults Aged ≥ 18 Years – United States, 2009.” Researchers at the CDC used data from the 2009 National Health Interview Survey and the 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to determine adult smoking prevalence rates on both the national and state level.

Researchers found that in 2009, 20.6% of adults in the U.S. were current smokers. For the purposes of this study, cigarette smokers were defined as “adults aged ≥ 18 years who reported having smoked ≥ 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and now smoke every day or some days.” Among these smokers, 78.1% reported smoking every day and 21.9% reported smoking on some days. Results also showed that smoking prevalence varied greatly among different subgroups of the population. Men (23.5%) had a higher smoking prevalence than women (17.9%); non-Hispanic whites (22.1%) and non-Hispanic-blacks (21.3%) had a higher smoking prevalence than Hispanics (14.5%) and Asians (12.0%); and smoking prevalence was higher in the Midwest (23.1%) and South (21.8%) and lowest in the West (16.4%). In addition, there were great variations in smoking prevalence rates among individuals with different education levels. Overall smoking prevalence was found to generally decline with increasing education. Nearly half of all adults who obtained a General Education Development certificate were current smokers, while (49.1%) compared to 5.6 %of people with a graduate degree (5.6%). Researchers also found smoking prevalence to be higher among those living below the federal poverty line (31.1%) than among those at or above the poverty level (19.4%).

The 2009 smoking prevalence rate of 20.6% means that we will not be able to meet our Healthy People 2010 goal of reducing adult smoking prevalence to less than 12%. Results from this study also show that having any decline in smoking prevalence among adults is unlikely since data analyzed in this study show that declines have stalled during the past five years, with no significant difference between smoking prevalence rates in 2005 (20.9%) and 2009 (20.6%).

Partnership for Prevention believes this report provides significant evidence to support the notion that more efforts are needed to help reduce the prevalence of this leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the U.S. A closer look at various subgroups reveals that we have many disparities we need to focus our tobacco control efforts on, such as education and income level, in order to drive smoking prevalence down. Partnership for Prevention advocates for price increases, comprehensive smoke-free policies, and anti-tobacco media campaigns in addition to ensuring that all smokers have access to tobacco cessation treatment they need to quit.


Katie Burggraf
Tobacco Control Intern
Partnership for Prevention

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