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U.S Smoking Rate Continues to Decline

Update Date: Nov 12, 2015 04:01 PM EST

Anti-smoking campaigns are paying off. According to new federal data, the smoking rate among American adults has fallen from 17.8 percent in 2013 to 16.8 percent in 2014.

Despite the improved numbers, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report found that certain groups are still considered to be high risk. More specifically, the experts calculated that in 2014, around 43 percent of Americans with lower levels of education (General Education Development Certificate) were smokers. This rate is extremely high when compared to the five percent smoking rate in Americans who have a graduate degree.

Aside from education, the experts also found that those who were insured via Medicaid or insurance programs for the poor were more likely to be smokers. About 29 percent of Americans with these types of health insurance programs were smokers while the rate of American smokers with private health insurance was at 13 percent.

"Disparities are the single most important issue in smoking," said Kenneth E. Warner, a professor of public health at the University of Michigan School of Public Health reported by the New York Times. "The people who are politically influential believe the smoking problem has been solved. It's not in their neighborhoods. Their friends don't smoke. Those who still smoke are the poor, the disenfranchised, the mentally ill. That's who we need to focus on."

Other findings from the report included:

- The rate of smokers with a high school degree fell by 12 percent (the rate was at 22 percent). In people with college degrees, the smoking rate fell by about 26 percent.

-The rate of smokers living at or above the poverty line fell by 26 percent. The rate of smokers who lived below the poverty line declined by 12 percent (rate was 26.3 percent).

- The highest smoking rates were seen in American Indians and Alaskan Natives at 29.2 percent followed by Americans with a multiracial background (27.9 percent).

-The smoking rate for people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual was 23.9 percent.

The U.S. smoking rate has been on the decline since the 1960s after the Surgeon general at the time warned everyone about the dangers of smoking. The Washington Post reported that smoking is responsible for about 480,00 deaths per year in the U.S. It also costs the nation about $300 billion per year in health care fees and productivity losses.

"These findings underscore the importance of ensuring that proven strategies to prevent and reduce tobacco use reach the entire population, particularly vulnerable groups," said Brian King, Ph.D., deputy director for research translation, CDC Office on Smoking and Health, reported in the news release. "Comprehensive smoke-free laws, higher prices for tobacco products, high-impact mass media campaigns, and barrier-free access to quitting help are all important. They work to reduce the enormous health and financial burden of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure among Americans."

Health officials are aiming to reduce the smoking rate to below 12 percent by 2020.

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