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U.S. adult smoking rate holds steady

CDC says year 2000 goal won't be met

December 24, 1997
Web posted at: 9:34 p.m. EST (0234 GMT)

ATLANTA (CNN) -- The number of U.S. adults who smoke is holding steady at just less than 25 percent, and public health authorities now concede they won't reach their goal of reducing smoking to 15 percent of the American population by 2000.

"It's a very serious disappointment and frustration that we won't reach our national goal," says Michael Eriksen of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "In fact, current trends will show that we'll miss it by a long shot."

A CDC study shows that in 1995, 24.7 percent of the adult population smoked, about 47 million people. That was down slightly from 24.8 percent in 1994, but the CDC's numbers show that the smoking rate hasn't moved significantly since 1990.

Among smokers, about 24.5 million were men and 22.4 million were women. The survey also found that about 70 percent of the smokers said they wanted to quit -- but only 3 percent are successful in doing so in any given year.

"If we could make that wish a reality, we could have the single greatest effect on human health," Eriksen said.

To help people kick the habit, the CDC is recommending that all health insurance plans begin offering counseling and nicotine treatment programs by 2000.

A recent survey found that only about two-thirds of the HMOs offered some coverage for such programs. And only five of 50 state Medicaid programs offered stop-smoking coverage.

"Even though doctors and health providers all know how harmful smoking is, progressive medicine and health plans still fall short in providing these services or reimbursing for them," Eriksen said.

Medical Correspondent Dan Rutz contributed to this report.


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