Uh-oh. For the first time in 15 years, more Americans are smoking.
Some 20.6 percent of U.S. adults were smokers in 2008, up from 19.8 percent the year before, according to estimates by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
A higher proportion of American adults is smoking.
A higher proportion of American adults is smoking. Owen Humphreys/AP
Even that small uptick worries anti-smoking advocates. "Clearly, we've hit a wall in reducing adult smoking," Vince Willmore, spokesman for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told the Associated Press.
That move in the wrong direction won't help the feds meet an already ambitious goal—reducing the proportion of adult smokers to less than 12 percent by 2010. The uptick marks the first increase in smoking in 15 years.
The data come from the National Health Interview Survey, given by phone to almost 22,000 American adults. The results and an explanation of how the CDC arrived at them appear in the current issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Smoking rates continue to correlate with education level and were lowest among adults with a graduate degree—just over five percent.
Efforts to keep young people from picking up the habit appear to be working. Since 2005 rates of smoking in 18- to 24-year-olds have decreased. The group used to have the highest rates of smoking, but now it trails 25- to 44-year-olds and 45- to 64-year-olds.
As for the overall rise, the CDC researchers says rates might be going up because many states have cut funding to their campaigns to control tobacco. Also, cigarette makers have lowered prices in response to tax increases on tobacco, the Associated Press writes.