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Smoking rates increase in 2008 - CDC

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By Sheilah Downey

Despite the skyrocketing costs of cigarettes, the number of smokers in the United States has increased slightly since 2007, the first time smoking rates have gone up in 15 years.

A report from the Centers for Disease Control released Thursday found that smoking rates in 2008 were 20.6 percent, while in 2007 the rates were 19.8 percent.

Writing in response to the CDC report, Matthew Meyers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, said it is too early to declare victory over tobacco in the United States, which remains the number one killer.

"In fact, the 2008 survey found a small but disturbing uptick in the percentage of smokers, from 19.8 percent in 2007," wrote Meyers. "While the CDC said this increase is not statistically significant, it is the first increase in the adult smoking rate since 1994."

The CDC report did find that from 1998 to 2008 the number of adult smokers declined 3.5 percent, from 24.1 to 20.6 percent, with that number stalling every since.

Overall, the study found that adults with low education levels comprised half of all smokers who also had the lowest quit ratios.

Specifically, the study found that in 2008, adults aged 25 or under with a General Educational Development (GED) diploma, had the highest smoking prevalence of smoking, at 41.3 percent.  Rates were at 27.5 percent for those without a high school diploma.

Among current smokers, the study found that an estimated 45.3 percent, or 20.8 million people, had tried to quit at least one time during the preceding year.

Smoking rates were higher among men (23.1) than women (18.3), the study found.

While smoking in teenagers has shown "a remarkable 45 percent reduction," according to Meyers, the stall in adult smoking rates represent a national challenge.

"It is clear from the recent stall in progress," said Meyers, "that elected officials at all levels must redouble efforts to implement scientifically proven strategies that prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from second hand smoke."

The Obama administration enacted a new law this year granting the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco products and marketing. They also approved a 62-cent increase in the federal cigarette tax, but the CDC study does not reflect those changes.

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