America Just Can't Seem to Stop Puffing

  • Share
  • Read Later
Everyone around you has quit smoking. Everywhere you look, companies are advertising new and improved ways to kick the habit. Restaurants, cafes and now even bars are non-smoking. All this leads to one conclusion: Fewer Americans are smoking than ever before.

Er, not really.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in four American adults smoked in 1998, the latest year for which figures are available. Thatís virtually the same number who smoked in 1997 and 1990. And while the 1998 data does indicate a slight decrease in smokers (24.1 percent versus 25.5 percent in 1990), the CDC isnít exactly thrilled with such a sluggish rate of slowdown. The agency had hoped to cut smoking to 15 percent by 2000.

Some of this comes down to good old human obstinacy: Within the 25 percent of folks who smoke, there is probably a baseline number of smokers who simply cannot, or will not quit — no matter what measures the federal government takes. And even now, the CDC should take heart: Given the intensive anti-smoking campaigns (funded in part by massive influxes of cash from beleaguered tobacco companies) launched in the last two years, itís possible that when the 2000 numbers are released in 2002 the CDC will have reason to be pleased. And maybe by 2002 the agency will have figured out they need an inexplicable two years of lag time to scratch out their numbers.