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CDC Survey Shows Acceleration in Adult Smoking Declines, But Not Enough to Meet National Health Goals

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
November 10, 2005

Washington, DC — The annual survey of adult smoking rates released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that smoking declines have accelerated in recent years, but not enough to achieve the U.S. Surgeon General’s national goal of reducing adult smoking to 12 percent or less by 2010. The adult smoking rate in 2004 declined to 20.9 percent from 21.6 percent in 2003 and 22.5 percent in 2002, representing a one-year decline of 3.2 percent and a two-year decline of 7.1 percent. This is the fastest two-year decline in adult smoking in 14 years. The data were published in the November 11 issue of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

It is good news for our nation’s health that adult smoking rates are declining again after stagnating during much of the 1990s. But it is also clear that elected officials at all levels must do more to implement the scientifically proven measures that have produced these declines, including well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs, tobacco tax increases and smoke-free workplace laws.

States and communities that have implemented these measures have achieved smoking declines far greater than the nation as a whole. In New York City, one of the few places that has implemented all of these policies, adult smoking rates declined by 15 percent from 2002 to 2004, which is more than double the national decline. California, which was the first state to implement the full range of tobacco use reduction programs, has reduced adult smoking to 29 percent lower than the country as a whole (only 14.8 percent of California adults currently smoke, according to the CDC). These results show that we know how to significantly reduce smoking and other tobacco use and would make far greater national progress if every state implemented these proven solutions.

The federal government must also take action. To help more smokers quit, the Administration and Congress should fully implement the National Action Plan on Tobacco Cessation recommended by the Administration’s own expert advisory committee. The committee called for increasing the federal cigarette tax by $2 per pack and using at least half the revenue for programs to help smokers quit, including providing smoking cessation counseling and medication to all smokers who want them. Unfortunately, the Administration has failed to implement most of this plan. In addition, during closing arguments in the federal government’s tobacco lawsuit, the Department of Justice cut the amount it wants the tobacco companies to pay for smoking cessation programs from $130 billion over 25 years to a woefully inadequate $10 billion over five years. Seventy percent of smokers say they want to quit, but most will not succeed unless they get the support and medication they need.

It is also important that Congress enact legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products, including the authority to stop marketing that entices kids and deters smokers from quitting with false promises of “reduced risk” cigarettes. The Senate passed such legislation in 2004, but it was blocked by House leaders.

While we are making progress in reducing smoking among both youth and adults, tobacco use remains the nation’s number one preventable cause of death, killing more than 400,000 people and costing more than $180 billion a year in health care costs and lost productivity. The tobacco companies continue to aggressively promote their deadly and addictive products and have more than doubled their cigarette marketing to $15.1 billion a year – $41.5 million a day – since the 1998 state tobacco settlement. We will not make greater progress in reducing smoking and its devastating consequences unless elected officials at all levels are equally aggressive in funding and implementing proven measures to reduce tobacco use.

Click here to view the CDC study, “Cigarette Smoking Among Adults – United States, 2004.” The CDC also released a separate study, “State-Specific Prevalence of Cigarette Smoking and Quitting Among Adults – United States, 2004,” that is also available on the same web page.