Those promoting Thursday's Great American Smokeout 2009 have their work cut out for them. That's because cigarette use among Americans, after declining for decades, has remained virtually unchanged for five straight years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
That's about 46 million smokers in the US – or 20.6 percent of the adult population. Every day, 1,000 young people become new smokers, the CDC says. (The level in 2004 was 20.9 percent, dipping to 19.7 in 2007.)
"At the national level, we're kind of stuck," Matthew McKenna, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, told WebMD. "Now we're back to where we had been. Too many bars, restaurants, and construction sites are still exempted from smoke-free laws."
Seventeen states ban smoking in bars, restaurants, and workplaces. Fourteen other states prohibit smoking in one or two of those three categories, The New York Times has reported.
But cigarette use varies state to state. Utah has the smallest share of smokers, with 9 percent of its adult population reporting cigarette use. West Virginia has the highest percentage – nearly 27 percent are smokers. It's followed closely by Indiana, at 26.5 percent, and Kentucky and Missouri at 25 percent.
Cigarette smoking also varies by race, gender, and education level. Less than 10 percent of Asian-Americans smoke, but native Americans and Alaska natives have rates three times higher. Gender also plays a role, with 23 percent of all men smoking, compared with 18 percent of all women. Smoking levels are also lower for those who have a college education compared with those who don't.
On average, it takes a smoker seven to 10 attempts to kick the habit, so it takes focus and commitment to quit, according to The Monday Campaigns, a group that encourages smokers to try to quit again each Monday until they succeed for good.
This year, as with the 33 previous Great American Smokeouts, the American Cancer Society and other partner groups are working to help those interested in quitting. In addition to traditional techniques, such as phone counseling and information on the health benefits of quitting, there are high-tech options. Facebook Applications, online cessation coaches, and even specially themed e-cards are available to encourage and support smokers ready to quit.
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