Washington, DC - American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments on a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The study, which examined 2014 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data, noted that overall adult smoking rates dropped a full percentage point between 2013 and 2014. It also reported on differences in U.S. smoking rates, including that uninsured adults or those insured through Medicaid smoke at rates twice as high as those covered by private health insurance or Medicare:
“The steady progress we have made to reduce the overall number of American smokers shows the public health community’s efforts are indeed working. The significant headway made from 2013 to 2014 is reason for applause, and we are gratified to see such a decline in the smoking rate in just one year. However, as we celebrate this victory in the fight against tobacco, we are also reminded we still have a long way to go to stamp out smoking completely.
This recent CDC study highlights that at-risk populations, like those who are on Medicaid or are uninsured, multiracial groups and impoverished Americans are not being reached as effectively. We must break through to all Americans if we are to end our nation’s tobacco epidemic.
This study reiterates that even though tobacco is an equal-opportunity killer, our success in convincing these vulnerable populations to kick their habits has been decidedly uneven. We echo the CDC director’s comments that we need to pass strong smoke-free laws, increase taxes on tobacco products and fully fund and support tobacco prevention and cessation programs. States also should ensure their Medicaid programs cover comprehensive tobacco cessation services for all recipients. The American Heart Association continues to work hard at the state and local levels to advocate for these policies.
Early NHIS data for this year indicates that once again, the nation’s overall smoking rate will continue to drop. For the first three months of 2015, the percentage of adults aged 18 and over who were current cigarette smokers was 15.2 percent.
While today’s report shows promising evidence that the tobacco control movement is working, we need to turn our attention to these other populations to ensure their rates begin to reflect this same progress moving forward.”