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New CDC Survey Shows Adult Smoking Rates Declining Very Slowly, Demonstrating Need to Do More to Help Smokers Quit

Statement by Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
October 09, 2003

Washington, D.C. — The annual survey of adult smoking rates released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that adult smoking in the United States continues to decline slowly, but at not nearly the rate needed to achieve the national goal of reducing adult smoking to 12 percent or less by 2010. The adult smoking rate in 2001, the most recent year for which data has been collected, declined to 22.8 percent from 23.3 percent in 2000, according to the annual National Health Interview Survey, to be published in the October 10 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

While the nation continues to make slow progress in reducing adult smoking, it is clear that much more must be done to help adult smokers quit and reduce tobacco's terrible toll in health, lives and money. The U.S. Surgeon General has established a goal of reducing the adult smoking rate to 12 percent by the year 2010 as part of Healthy People 2010, a series of far-reaching public health goals for the nation. To achieve this goal, adult smoking rates would have to decline by 47 percent in the next seven years, which is more than four times the rate of decline in the seven years from 1994 to 2001. A decline of this magnitude seems unthinkable without a massive effort by governments at all levels to implement proven tobacco prevention and cessation measures, including comprehensive, well-funded state tobacco prevention and cessation programs, tobacco tax increases, smoke-free workplace policies, and increased public and private insurance coverage of smoking cessation therapies. There is overwhelming evidence that most smokers want to quit and there are now several proven approaches to help them do it.

The federal government must do its part to make smoking cessation medication and counseling more affordable and accessible to smokers. Studies have indicated that the high cost and lack of access to such services are among the primary obstacles to reducing smoking in the U.S. Earlier this year, an advisory committee to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended increasing the federal cigarette tax by $2 per pack and using at least half the revenue for smoking cessation initiatives, including providing smoking cessation counseling and medication to all smokers who want them. Although the Bush Administration has stated that it will not support the cigarette tax increase, we urge the White House to reconsider its position in light of the clear need for bold and aggressive efforts at all levels if we are to succeed in reducing adult smoking rates and smoking-caused deaths in the U.S. Congress also needs to acknowledge the terrible toll that tobacco takes on America's families by passing strong legislation to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority it needs to effectively regulate the tobacco industry and put an end to deceptive tobacco marketing, particularly to America's kids.

A groundbreaking study conducted by the CDC and other researchers and published in the September 2003 Journal of Health Economics, shows that if all states had funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs at levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette sales would have declined at twice the rate they did between 1994 and 2000. Unfortunately, few states have kept their promise to use proceeds from the 1998 state tobacco settlement to adequately fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and many states, including those with the most successful programs, have cut or eliminated funding for their programs over the past two years. The failure of most states to properly fund tobacco prevention is tragic and inexcusable in light of the overwhelming scientific evidence that these programs work and the fact that, despite their current budget woes, states are collecting more revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes than ever before.

There must be a major commitment of resources to tobacco cessation and prevention by both the states and the federal government if we are to succeed in reducing the tremendous toll of tobacco use, which kills more than 400,000 people in the U.S. and costs our nation more than $75 billion in health care costs every year.

To view the CDC adult smoking prevalence survey, go to: