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Sustained smoking level reason for concern

How can they not get it?

Cigarette smoke pollutes the body. Despite hammering home that message for almost 40 years now, tobacco remains the leading preventable cause of death, disease and disability in the U.S.

Every year about 443,000 people die from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and 8.6 million more suffer serious illnesses from smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But despite the known dangers of smoking, a new CDC report says that 46.6 million American adults still light up every day, exposing 88 million nonsmokers to their dirty habit.

The nation's once declining smoking rate has been stuck in a groove, with 1 of every 5 adults still partaking in 2009, about the same as 2008. The smoking continues despite a poor economy and dramatic increases in the cost of cigarettes through taxation. Statistics show the lower the income the higher the percentage of smokers.

How frustrating.

After dropping dramatically from the 1960s to 2004, the decline has flattened out, including numbers for teenage smokers. That's unfortunate since most adult smokers first started puffing away when they were teens. The latest numbers report that 20 percent, or 1 in every 5 high school students, is smoking.

Even more disturbing, tobacco use exposes more than half of U.S. children aged 3 to 11 to secondhand smoke and 98 percent of children who live with smokers have measurable tobacco toxins in their bodies. That is reason alone for parents and older siblings to quit.

But we understand that smoking is an addiction and quitting is not easy. That's why it is incumbent upon lawmakers to resurrect anti-tobacco campaigns. Cigarette companies are shrewd marketers, but past government efforts aimed at snuffing out smoking have helped bring down the number of smokers.

Government can't solve every problem, but given the fact that smoking kills 1,000 Americans every single day and sickens many, many more, putting a great strain on the health care system, it's good public policy to provide smokers with tools to help kick their tobacco habits.

It's time to jump-start anti-smoking campaigns and get those stagnant smoker numbers spiraling down again.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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