Heavy Cigarette Smoking in U.S. Declining

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A new study has found that the number of heavy smokers in the United States has declined dramatically over the past four and a half decades.

According to a Health Day report, researchers from the University of California at San Diego examined data from two studies -- the National Health Interview Surveys, 1965-1994 and the Current Population Survey Tobacco Supplements, 1992-2007.

In 1965, 56% of all smokers in the United States smoked a pack (20 cigarettes) a day or more. By 2007, that number was down to 7.2%.

As far as those who smoked 10 to 19 cigarettes a day, that number was 10.5% in 1965. It dropped to 5.4% in 2007.

"Public health advocacy can have a major impact on social norms and lead to major changes in population behavior," said lead researcher John P. Pierce, a professor of family and preventive medicine.

Nowhere was the drop in smoking greater than in California, which has been a leader in the fight against smoking.

"The Tobacco Control Program in California has aimed to change social norms in the population, and this has had a major impact," Pierce said. "Such programs need to be disseminated more widely. The change in social norms in California impacted both initiation and cessation."

The report is published in the March 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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