Smoking rates reach all-time low as prevention targets young users

(KSFY) - This summer, the Centers for Disease Control announced smoking rates have once again fallen to an all-time low.

About 14 percent of adults smoked in the last year, down from 16 percent the year before.

While it is a great step in the right direction, healthcare providers said there is still work to be done.

“Even though 14 percent doesn't seem like that many, that still means there are 30 million adults in our country who are smokers, so we still have work to do to educate people about the benefits of quitting, no matter what age, what stage of life you're in, but more importantly trying to keep kids from ever starting,” Sioux Falls Health Department Public Health Prevention Coordinator Mary Michaels said.

“I still tell people even now that I loved to smoke, I just did, but I knew where I was going with it and where it would probably ultimately take me,” Chris Hood said.

Like many smokers, Hood picked up the habit in his teens.

“We really did it just to be cool, and it wasn't cool, it was a bad mistake,” he said.

Hood quickly became a heavy smoker, going through more than two packs a day.

“They started in those teenage years, and then you build that lifetime habit, you have that nicotine addiction, and it is going to be harder to quit,” Michaels said.

It is why teenagers are heavily targeted by anti-smoking campaigns.

“If we can get someone to the age of 19 without ever using tobacco, it’s very unlikely that they would ever start,” Michaels said. “Unfortunately, we see too many kids who are starting smoking every day.”

“I told myself, 'if I don't quit smoking before I turn 21, it wouldn't be good,'” Hood said.

After only a few years of smoking in his teens, Hood started to experience the physical toll.

“I started coughing up blood from smoking Marlboro menthols,” Hood said. “I decided, 'if I don't quit now I’m probably going to end up dying of Emphysema just like my grandpa did.'”

Thoughts of his family inspired Hood to quit smoking cold turkey.

“I didn't want to create the pain that we all had when my grandpa died,” he said.

“Quitting smoking is a big challenge, it’s a drug, that nicotine is an addictive drug,” Michaels said.

She said journey to a smoke-free lifestyle is not something you have to face alone.

“The important thing to do is get support, whether that's a family member, a friend, in person counseling, group cessation or just calling the South Dakota QuitLine," she said.

Michaels said the local quit line is one of the most effective in the nation, providing plenty of support, resources and connections to help people kick the habit.

The quit line can also provide free quit kits for businesses, individuals, pregnant women and more to help get them started.

The CDC said even with rates at an all-time low there are still 30 million adult smokers in the nation. The numbers also do not reflect the number of teens and adults who have switched to e-cigarettes, which Michaels said still bring significant health concerns.