THURSDAY, Nov. 15 (HealthDay News) -- The American Cancer
Society launches its annual Great American Smokeout event Thursday
as anti-smoking advocates push to reverse a slowdown in the decline
of tobacco use in the United States.
The percentage of high-school students who smoke cigarettes has
flattened over the past few years after a rapid fall in the late
1990s and early 2000s, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. Among adults, the percentage of cigarette
smokers has hovered around 19 percent to 21 percent since 2004.
"We've seen a bit of a stall," said Dave Dobbins, chief operating officer of the American Legacy Foundation, an anti-smoking organization that was created by a 1999 settlement between the federal government and tobacco companies.
At the same time, though, people who do smoke are smoking less,
said Thomas Glynn, director of cancer science and trends and
international cancer control at the American Cancer Society.
"Today, 60 percent of smokers are smoking less than a pack a day, and it was the reverse 10 years ago: 60 percent were smoking a pack or more a day," he said. "Smoking isn't a problem that's solved ... but we've certainly made progress."
Glynn attributes the decline in the number of cigarettes smoked
to efforts to boost the price of cigarettes and make it harder to
find places to smoke. "They don't want to spend as much, and they
don't want to stand outside in the cold to smoke," he said.
So why isn't the number of smokers continuing to dip at a rapid
clip? Dobbins suspects that the intense anti-smoking efforts
prompted by the 1999 settlement reached the "low-hanging fruit" --
the people easiest to persuade.
Certain groups of Americans are especially likely to smoke and
may be harder to reach. The most recent CDC statistics, from 2010,
found that almost a third of Native Americans smoke cigarettes, as
do 21 percent of blacks. Smoking is most common among younger
people and those with less education and lower incomes.
As always, it's extremely difficult to quit smoking. "The
science is becoming more rigorous and shows that it's as difficult
to quit as cocaine and heroin," Dobbins said.
Smoking is a difficult habit to break because it's such a
routine part of people's lives, he said: "You smoke on your break,
you smoke when you're eating lunch."
There are a wide variety of strategies to quit smoking,
including cold turkey, counseling and medications like nicotine
patches. "A combination of counseling and drug therapy will have
much more success than quitting cold turkey," Dobbins said. "You'll
decrease your chances if you don't look at the entire tool kit of
things that can help you."
Don't give up if you relapse, Glynn said.
"What we generally find works best is earning it by going through the difficult process of trying, slipping, trying again, slipping, trying again," Glynn said. "Most smokers will take four, five, six, seven quit attempts before becoming successful."
doesn'twork? Acupuncture and hypnosis are popular but don't
work for the vast majority of people, Glynn said.
There are many online resources to help you quit smoking.
The American Cancer Society, for example, offers a
cigarette cost calculatorto show how much money
you're spending to smoke. It also has a guide to the
benefits of quitting smokingand a
quizto gauge whether you need help to quit.
For more on the
hazards of smoking, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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