Smoking falls out of grace in America, with the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report indicating a significant decline in smoking levels for 2014.
While this is a public health success story, a greater emphasis should be placed on the categories still at risk of picking up smoking. According to the authors of the report disparities are still creating a gap between different social groups.
Smoking is rated among the top causes of preventable death in the U.S., ranking on top of the list. The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows an encouraging one percent drop in the number of U.S. smokers compared to 2013. In 2013, 17.8 percent of American adults were still smokers. Now, 16.8 percent are caught up in the habit. Further pushing of regulations and strategies, as well as awareness campaigns might drop the number even further. If the trend continues as such, it is estimated that by 2050, a very small percentage of U.S. adults will still be smoking.
Considering that in the 1960s 50 percent of Americans were smokers, lighting a cigarette in their homes, offices, public transport or public places, a 16.8 percent figure is really a reason to celebrate. As smoking falls out of grace in America efforts to curb the incidence of the hazardous habit must now emphasize the disparity between social groups and address them if things are to move for the better.
According to the report, little educated Americans are prone to smoking. 43 percent of U.S. adults without a graduate degree are smokers. On the other hand only 5 percent of those who graduated are smokers.
Poverty also seems to be connected to smoking. Looking at Medicaid-covered U.S. adults, the researchers found that 30 percent of them are smokers. 13 percent of Americans who are privately insured smoke. The first category is made up of six million people. With the percentage of smokers well above the national average this can translate in a serious public health problem. In addition, 9 million smokers are uninsured.
Professor of public health Keith Warner with the University of Michigan School of Public Health draw attention to these disparities:
“The people who are politically influential believe the smoking problem has been solved. It’s not in their neighbourhoods. 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.”
With the release of the CDC report the federal government also announced that it is preparing a bill to ban smoking in public housing. Met with raised eyebrows, the proposal is still being discussed.
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