SMOKING RATE: At a Plateau, Young Adults to Blame
Despite the efforts of anti-tobacco campaigns, the smoking rate among all adults "has barely budged this decade," and the rate of young adult smokers has risen, according to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released today, USA Today reports (Koch, 11/5). The survey found that 24.7% -- 48 million -- American adults smoked in 1997, the same rate found in a similar survey conducted in 1995. While the smoking rate actually decreased for most adult age groups between 1990 to 1997, the smoking rate for the 18-24 age group rose from 24.5% to 28.7%, causing the overall smoking rate to remain stable (Bynum, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/5). The CDC estimated that 27.6% of men smoked regularly in 1997, compared with 22.1% of women. The survey of more that 35,000 adults also found that smoking rates differed by race and economic class. Blacks had the highest smoking rate at 26.7%, followed by whites, with 25.3%, and Hispanics, with 20.4% (Cooper, Reuters/Boston Globe, 11/5). One out of three people living below the poverty line smoked, compared to one out of four living above it. In addition, the survey found that people who did not graduate from high school were three times more likely to smoke than those who had college educations. Officials from the CDC said that 40% of white high school seniors smoked, compared to 25% of Latinos and 15% of African Americans. Dr. Michael Eriksen, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, said, "Tobacco control is one of the success stories of the 20th century. The year before the first surgeon general's report, 42% of adults smoked, and that has been cut in half. Literally millions of lives have been saved. At the same time, the 1990s will be looked back on as a time of failure" (McKenna, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/5).
Youth In Trouble
Eriksen was particularly concerned with the rise in the number of young adult smokers, saying, "For as long as we've kept statistics on smoking, young adults have always smoked less than those in middle age. Now we're seeing equal amounts in the 18-to-24 age group and those who are older." With tobacco responsible for 430,000 deaths annually, Eriksen said, "The implication is more morbid. As more teens and young adults take up smoking, the future impact is more lung cancer, more emphysema and more heart disease" (Reilly, Newark Star-Ledger, 11/5). He added, "When we look at why we're not making progress in reducing adult smoking, very disturbingly what we found is that the lack of decline is primarily coming from more young adult smokers" (Reuters/Boston Globe, 11/5). He blamed the increase in the smoking rate among young adults on "sophisticated marketing strategies" by tobacco companies "aggressively targeting bars, music venues, places where young adults congregate" (Newark Star-Ledger, 11/5). He concluded, "The bottom line on this is it just speaks to how tough it is to quit and how addictive tobacco is" (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/5).