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Most smokers want to quit but few do, a CDC report finds

November 11, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Most smokers in 2010 wanted to quit but few were able to. Blacks had the highest rate of quit attempts but the least success.
Most smokers in 2010 wanted to quit but few were able to. Blacks had the highest… (Trent Penny / Associated…)

When it comes to quitting smoking, the lungs might be willing but the flesh is weak. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that while about 69% of smokers last year wanted to quit, only about a tenth were able to do so.

The CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report used data from a large national survey from 2001 through 2010. Among the smokers surveyed most -- 68.8% -- wanted to quit for good in 2010, and 52.4% tried to quit in the previous year. Only 6.2% succeeded, however.

When broken down by race and ethnicity, 75.6% of blacks were interested in quitting, followed by 69.1% of whites and 61% of Latinos. Blacks also had the most attempts at quitting (59.1%), followed by whites (50.7%). But more whites were likely to quit smoking than blacks—6% versus 3.3%. The discrepancy, the report said, could be due to blacks' lower use of proven stop-smoking treatments as well as their higher use of menthol cigarettes, which may be linked with fewer successful quit attempts among blacks.

People who had more education were more likely to try to quit compared to those with less education, and they were more likely to succeed: 11.4% of smokers with an undergraduate degree were able to quit compared to 3.2% of smokers who had at most completed high school.

Just under half of study participants who saw a healthcare professional said they were advised by them to stop smoking. Among current and former smokers who were able to quit in the last two years, 31.7% used used counseling, stop-smoking medication or both. Among people age 25 to 64, attempts at quitting went up from 2001 to 2010.

The CDC report noted that all states have a toll-free telephone help line (800-QUIT-NOW) offering support and resources to smokers who want to quit. And don't forget--Nov. 17 is the Great American Smokeout, when smokers are encouraged to quit for at least one day, and possibly more.

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