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CDC Survey Indicates Adult Smoking Declines Have Stalled, Shows Need to Redouble Efforts to Reduce Tobacco Use

Statement of William V. Corr Executive Director, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
October 27, 2006

Washington, DC — WASHINGTON, DC - It is troubling news for our nation’s health that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported today that progress in reducing adult smoking may have stalled after several years of slow but steady declines. The CDC reported that 20.9 percent of U.S. adults smoked in 2005, the same rate as in 2004. This is the first time the adult smoking rate has not declined since 1997, when it was 24.7 percent.

These results mirror a similar stall in youth smoking declines found by recent surveys. The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey released in June found that 23 percent of high school students smoked in 2005, up from 21.9 percent in 2003 and a worrisome turnaround after a 40 percent decline between 1997 and 2003.

These survey results sound a clear warning to elected leaders: The remarkable progress our nation has made in reducing tobacco use is at risk unless we resist complacency and redouble efforts to implement proven solutions.

  • At the state level, these solutions include increased funding for programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, higher tobacco taxes and smoke-free workplace laws. Seven states - Arizona, California, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio and South Dakota - will vote November 7 on ballot initiatives to implement such measures. The new CDC survey underscores why it is so important that voters approve these initiatives. Click here for details on the initiatives.
  • At the federal level, Congress must pass legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over tobacco products, including the authority to stop marketing that encourages kids to start smoking and discourages smokers from quitting with the false promise of “safer” cigarettes. The Administration should also implement the plan of its own expert committee on tobacco cessation, which includes increasing access to affordable smoking cessation counseling and medication.

It is no coincidence that progress in reducing smoking has stalled at the same time that tobacco marketing expenditures have skyrocketed to record levels and states have cut funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs by more than a quarter. Because of these trends, the tobacco companies currently spend more than $28 to market their products for every $1 the states spend to reduce tobacco use.

Since the 1998 state tobacco settlement, which was supposed to curtail tobacco marketing, total cigarette marketing has increased by 125 percent to a record $15.1 billion in 2003, the most recent year for which the Federal Trade Commission has issued a cigarette marketing report (cigarette marketing has almost certainly continued to increase significantly since 2003). More than 75 percent of cigarette marketing is now spent on price discounts, which undermines efforts to reduce smoking by increasing cigarette taxes. The tobacco companies know that when they discount cigarette prices, more kids start smoking and fewer smokers quit.

In contrast, from Fiscal Year 2002 to Fiscal Year 2006, states cut funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs by 26.5 percent (total funding for these programs was cut by $199 million, from $750 million in FY2002 to $551 million in FY2006). In FY2006, only four states funded tobacco prevention programs at minimum levels recommended by the CDC, while 35 states and the District of Columbia funded programs at less than half the CDC minimum or provided no funding at all. The states lack excuses for their failure to do more. There is conclusive evidence that these programs work and the states collect more than $21 billion in revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes. Less than eight percent of this tobacco revenue would fund tobacco prevention programs in every state at CDC-recommended levels.

For the sake of our nation’s health, we cannot become complacent about reducing tobacco use. Despite the progress we have made, tobacco use is still the nation’s leading preventable cause of death, killing more than 400,000 people and costing the nation more than $190 billion in health care bills and lost productivity every year. We know what works to reduce smoking among both youth and adults. What’s needed is the political will to implement these proven solutions as aggressively as the tobacco companies continue to market their deadly and addictive products.

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. Click here to view the report.