Indiana near top in smoking survey; national rate rises

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Cigarette smoking rose slightly on a national basis for the first time in almost 15 years, dashing health officials' hopes that the U.S. smoking rate had moved permanently below 20 percent.

According to a 2008 national survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20.6 percent of U.S. adults said they smoked. That's up slightly from the year before, when just 19.8 percent said they were smokers. It also is the first increase in adult smoking since 1994, experts noted.

Also on Thursday, the CDC released state-by-state results on smoking from a different survey, conducted by telephone, of more than 400,000 adults, which found  that Indiana had the second highest smoking rate in the nation.

About 26.1 percent of Indiana adults are smokers, trailing only West Virginia, with a rate of 26.6 percent. Kentucky was next with a rate of 25.3 percent, followed by Missouri at 25 percent. Utah, at 9.2 percent, had the lowest smoking rate among states.

The national increase in the smoking rate was so small, it could be just a blip, so health officials and experts say smoking prevalence is flat, not rising. But they are unhappy.

"Clearly, we've hit a wall in reducing adult smoking," said Vince Willmore, spokesman for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a Washington, D.C.- based research and advocacy organization.

There's a general perception that smoking is a fading public health danger. Feeding that perception are indoor smoking laws, cigarette taxes and Congress' recent decision to allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco.

But health officials believe gains have been undermined by cuts in state tobacco control campaigns. Some advocates believe tobacco companies are overcoming increasing obstacles.

Cigarette marketing has persisted and is effectively reaching kids and minorities with messages about flavored or menthol products, said Dr. Clyde Yancy, president of the American Heart Association.

The tobacco industry also has been discounting cigarettes to offset tax increases and keep smokes affordable, Willmore said.

Between 1997 and 2004, the average retail price of a pack of cigarettes — adjusted for inflation — jumped 63 percent, and adult smoking declined about 15 percent. Between 2004 and 2008, the price rose just 2 percent, while adult smoking declined by just about 1 percent, he said, citing industry sales data.

"There's a clear correlation," Willmore said.

Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and illness in the United States, and is a cause of cancers, heart disease and other fatal conditions.

The adult smoking rate has been dropping, in starts and stops, since the mid-1960s when roughly 2 out of 5 U.S. adults smoked. Now it's 1 in 5. However, federal health goals for the year 2010 had hoped to bring the rate down to close to 1 in 10.

Adult smoking hovered at about 21 percent from 2004 to 2006, then dropped a full percentage point in 2007, said Dr. Matthew McKenna, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health.

The 2007 drop gave CDC officials hope that U.S. smoking was plummeting again. "Now that appears to be a statistical aberration," McKenna said.

The new survey's results come from in-person interviews of nearly 22,000 U.S. adults.

The study was released Thursday and published in the CDC publication, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Many of the states that have the lowest smoking rates are those that have been the most aggressive about indoor smoking laws and about state taxes that drive up the cost of cigarettes, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC's director.

Health officials are optimistic that more and more smokers will be discouraged from lighting up by escalating cigarette taxes, including a 62-cent federal tax that took effect in April. That may cause smoking to go down when the 2009 smoking data comes in, some advocates said.

Perhaps the recession will have an impact, too.

"In general, when people have less money, they smoke less," Frieden said. "Time will tell."


    The air quailty is a worry for you, look no further than your own car, School bus,trucks
    all thosoe trips to the store or to pick up kids, There is the Dirty air problem you must out of your mind to think smoking causes
    Dirty air. And while you out there breathing the fumes in the parking garages and sitting in traffic behind a Metro bus think aboiut all teh Obese or over weight What do you think they cost you in health care Heart disease, Diabetes, Blood Clots.
    You want to control the donuts they eat.
    Even the Major is Over weight. Lets Ban where they can eat, If you are over weight no more Mc Donalds or cakes, Soda pop..
    or what about people who Drink they just drive and kill and health problems they have thier share too.
    So common on let be fair all the way around let just control everything everyone does if
    Seem strange that they use the money from Smokers (Tax) to build chools, among other things to numberous to list. What to you get from a Fat person or a Drinker or a Drug user (Death) and NOTHING but Medical Bills.
    that the Tax Payer pays...So where does it all stop.

  • Clear the Air--Defeat Ballard
    Mayor Ballard will lose (smoking) voters as they slowly die. If you are dead, you can't vote. For now, lets do all that we can to clear our very dirty Indy air and pass the indoor smoking ban. Next step--outdoor air--how about at least a 1 mile radius around educational institutions and hospitals? If there were state rankings based on longevity, where do you think Indiana would rank? How many ways do we need to chop and sort and define the negative aspects of tobacco use? Freedom and civil liberties are valuable, but I expect to have my health protected too. We must create a healthier culture in our sick (sadly) state. We must start now.
    • Why Mayor Ballard Went Against the Anti-Smoking Bill
      It is very obvious now why Mayor Ballard was going to veto the anti-smoking bill. He didn't want to lose voters - despite the health risks and the subsequent local high insurance rates. Hopefully those of us who are concerned about the hazards of second-hand smoke will come together to defeat him in the next election.

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