Nov. 8 2007
Washington, D.C. — Sounding an alarm that should be heard in Congress and statehouses across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported today that the adult smoking rate in the United States was at a standstill for the second year in a row in 2006 after several years of steady declines. The CDC reported that 20.8 percent of U.S. adults smoked in 2006, about the same as the 20.9 percent who smoked in 2004 and 2005. This stall follows a 15.4 percent decline in adult smoking between 1997 and 2004 (from 24.7 percent to 20.9 percent).
Youth smoking declines have similarly stalled in recent years after declining significantly since the mid-1990s, and 23 percent of high school students still smoke, according to the most recent CDC data.
It is troubling news for America’s health that progress has stalled in reducing tobacco use, the nation’s number one preventable cause of death. It is also inexcusable that elected leaders have not done more given the overwhelming scientific evidence of what works to reduce tobacco use among both children and adults. Just this year, landmark reports by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies of Sciences and the President’s Cancer Panel have agreed on the steps that Congress and the states must take to significantly reduce and eventually eliminate the tobacco epidemic:
States that have implemented these measures have achieved far greater reductions in smoking than the nation as a whole. For example, Washington reduced adult smoking by nearly 11 percent between 2004 and 2006, from 19.2 to 17.1 percent, while New York achieved an 8.5 percent reduction, from 20 to 18.3 percent. New York City, with its comprehensive approach to fighting tobacco use, reduced adult smoking to 17.5 percent in 2006, and California, the nation’s tobacco control pioneer, has reduced adult smoking to 14.9 percent. It is clear that we know how to significantly reduce tobacco use and just need the political will to implement proven solutions at all levels of government.
According to the CDC report, several factors appear to have contributed to the recent stalling of progress:
Today’s CDC report is a warning that our nation cannot become complacent in the fight against tobacco. Tobacco use kills more than 400,000 Americans and costs the nation nearly $100 billion in health care bills each year. It is time at last for our nation’s leaders to combat the tobacco epidemic with a level of commitment and resources that matches the scope of the problem.
The results of the CDC’s annual adult smoking survey were published in this week’s issue of the CDC journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.