Doctors’ orders: Quit smoking early if you can

    A new government report confirms that America’s quit rates are dismal. About half of U.S. smokers say they tried to quit tobacco in the last year, but less than 7 percent were successful, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

    This story is part of a project on health in the states, a partnership between WHYY, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

    About half of U.S. smokers say they tried to quit tobacco in the last year, but less than 7 percent successfully snuffed the habit, according to a new report from scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    It’s hardly news that the nicotine habit is hard to kick. And the new government report confirms that America’s quit rates are dismal.

    Deborah Brown, who leads the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic, says some groups have more success than others.

    “Males are more likely to quit than females. Individuals who have higher education or higher family income are more likely to quit. We also know that Caucasians are more successful at the process. African Americans have the most desire to quit but their success rate is dramatically decreased,” Brown said.

    Many black Americans use menthol-flavored tobacco, which masks the taste of cigarettes. Some researchers suspect that makes it harder to stop smoking.

    CDC researchers aren’t trying to bum you out, just deliver the message that the government and doctors may not be doing enough to help smokers.

    The report did uncover some encouraging news about younger adults.

    The percentage of those between 25 and 44 who say they want to quit has increased.

    Doctors are encouraging that resolve. They say by the sooner you quit, the sooner you will reap health benefits.

    Smokers who give up the habit before age 35 have death rates very similar to people who’ve never smoked. Just one year after quitting, some heart disease risks drop by half.

    Brown said many smokers will need to try quitting several times before they succeed.

    “The good news is that there are proven treatments out there to help smokers quit. The bad news is that we just aren’t getting the treatments—meaning quit aids and counseling—we’re not getting those treatment options available to enough smokers to really make a difference,” she said.

    Overall, smoking rates are falling across the country. But tobacco foes say those who continue to light up may need more targeted help and incentives.

    Also this week, the Obama administration is touting its crackdown on tobacco retailers who sell to kids.

    Several Philadelphia stores have received warning letters from the government.

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