Tobacco Still Major Concern as Smoking Declines Begin to Stall

Article excerpt

Adult smoking rates in the United States were at a standstill in 2006 for the second year in a row, leading public health advocates to call for a revitalization of efforts to snuff out the nation's number-one preventable cause of death.

"We need to redouble our efforts," Bob Vollinger, MSPH, chair of APHA's Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Section, told The Nation's Health.

That means an increased emphasis on science-based interventions that are proven to work in both helping smokers quit and preventing others from picking up the habit, he said.

In November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 20.8 percent of U.S. adults smoked in 2006, relatively unchanged from the 20.9 percent in 2005 and a disappointment in light of the 15.4 percent decline in U.S. adult smoking rates between 1997 and 2004. Disturbingly, youth smoking declines have also stalled in recent years following years of significant drops. Twenty-three percent of high school students smoked in 2006, according to CDC statistics.

CDC officials hypothesized the stall in smoking declines could be attributed to many factors, including a 20.3 percent drop in funding for comprehensive state programs for tobacco control and prevention between 2002 and 2006. Meanwhile, tobacco industry marketing nearly doubled from 1998 to 2005, rising from $6.7 billion to $13.1 billion. And even though increasing the price of cigarettes has proven effective in driving down smoking rates, the majority of tobacco industry marketing in 2005 was related to discounting strategies that counteracted price increases.

Cigarette smoking is linked to about 438,000 yearly deaths in the United States, and a Healthy People 2010 goal calls for reducing the cigarette smoking rate to 12 percent or less among adults. …