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Adult Smoking Rate Continues Downward Trend

People of lower income and education still smoke more and are less likely

to quit

OLYMPIA, Wash., Aug. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new survey by the Washington State Department of Health shows the number of adult smokers in the state is continuing to drop. Since the department began its Tobacco Prevention and Control Program in 2000, adult smoking has gone from 22.4 percent to a new low of 17 percent. Washington continues to have the fifth lowest smoking rate in the nation.

The most recent numbers from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey show a decline from a 17.6 percent smoking rate in 2005 to 17 percent in 2006. Although a relatively small drop, the data confirm a continued trend of fewer people smoking in our state. The overall drop in smoking since 2000 translates to about 235,000 fewer smokers in the state, and $2.1 billion saved in future health care costs for Washington.

"It is clear that Washington is making strides in reducing smoking and I am pleased with the progress; yet we need to do more to help those who are having problems quitting for good," said Governor Chris Gregoire.

The latest research shows that people with low income (less than $25,000/year) and less education (high school diploma or less) smoke at higher rates than the general population and are less likely to quit successfully. Smoking among these groups has not dropped significantly in recent years.

"Tobacco prevention and control is a priority for our state, and overall it is paying off with fewer smokers," said Secretary of Health Mary Selecky. "At the same time, I'm concerned about the higher smoking rates for some groups. We continue to look for new and creative ways to reach people with low income, lower levels of education, and others who are more likely to smoke."

Smoking rates are higher among low income adults at 30 percent; the rate is 27 percent among people with less education. Compared to whites, smoking rates are also significantly higher among African Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives and lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

The agency is working on innovations to reach groups that continue to use tobacco at higher rates. A partnership with Head Start to screen and refer smokers is being expanded, and cessation advertising will target low income smokers. The agency has also expanded access to free nicotine replacement medications through its toll-free quit line (1-800-QUIT-NOW, and in Spanish, 1-877-2NO-FUME).

"We have worked with the Department of Health to develop quit programs and materials that are relevant to American Indians," said Kelly Baze, Prevention Coordinator for the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe. "The partnership has provided us with information, training and resources to better serve our community and ensure that in the future, members are aware of important health information."

It's not easy quitting cold turkey. That's why the Washington Tobacco Quit Line provides free help to people around the state. More than 95,000 Washington residents have called the toll-free quit line for free information, counseling, a personalized quit plan, local quitting resources and quit kits. There is also a quit line Web site (

While Washington has made significant headway in lowering smoking rates, there is still work to do. The tobacco industry spends more than $160 million each year in our state to hook smokers. About 45 youth start smoking each day, and about 8,000 people in our state die every year from tobacco-related diseases.

Visit the Washington Department of Health Web site at for a healthy dose of information.

SOURCE Washington State Department of Health

Copyright©2007 PR Newswire.

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