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U.S. Smoking Rate Unchanged for Five Years

It was a 40-year trend that lasted through 2005 and saved thousands of lives. But new statistics show, again, that the U.S. smoking rate is stagnant. More than 1 in 5 Americans profess to be smokers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), which released its annual smoking study earlier this week.

The new report was filled with statistics, including the one that may be the most talked about:  smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, causing an estimated 446,000 deaths from smoking-related diseases. Whether or not you can put your finger on an exact number of body bags may not be the point, however.

The states with the highest percentage of puffers are Kentucky and West Virginia at about 26%. The CDC said these numbers could be different in states such as these, but of the $25 billion provided to states in the form of tobacco taxes and tobacco litigation settlements in 2009, only $700 million was spent on smoking prevention and related programs. That’s a total of 3%.

The CDC’s stats show that Utah (10%) and California (13%) are the two states with the lowest percentage of smokers, due to their cancer prevention programs and smoke-free ordinances. Since 1986, the smoking rate in California has dropped 40% and the lung cancer rates in the state have declined four times faster than the U.S. average. Communities that passed smoking bans saw, on average, a 17% decline in heart attacks the year following implantation.

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The exact number of smokers in 2009 stood at 20.6%, down only slightly from 20.9% in 2005.

The populations with the highest rates of smoking include those below the poverty level (31%), multiracial adults (30%), non-high school grads (25%), men (24%), American Indian and Alaska natives (23%), high school students (20%), and women (18%). Geographically, those living in the Midwest and South are most likely to smoke.

Those who are the least likely to smoke include Hispanic and Asian women, older adults, and those with higher levels of education. All of these groups smoke at a rate less than 12% per capita.

The CDC stated that reasons for the leveling off of the smoking rate include shrewd marketing by the tobacco companies, who often target young adults and children with subtle and not-so-subtle techniques.

About 40% of non-smoking adults were found to have cotinine (a nicotine metabolite and health risk) in their systems in 2008, a minimal drop from 41.7% in 2002.

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