Heavily Mormon Utah has become the first and only state to meet the government's goal of reducing the smoking rate to about one in eight adults, federal health officials said Wednesday.
The overall smoking rate among U.S. adults continues to drop, falling to 22.1 percent in 2003, the according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That was a decline of just one percentage point from the year before.
"It's a slow decline, but at least it is still is going down," said Dr. Corinne Husten, acting director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health.
But the rate is falling too slowly to meet the government's goal of having a smoking rate of 12 percent or less by 2010, officials said.
Utah met that goal in 2003 with a smoking rate of 12 percent, Husten said.
Utah's "strong social prohibitions" against smoking among its predominantly Mormon residents have helped, Husten said. She also cited the state's restaurant smoking bans and moderately high cigarette tax of 69.5 cents a pack.
California had the second-lowest smoking state at nearly 17 percent.
But other states, including tobacco-producing Kentucky, with the nation's highest adult smoking rate, at nearly 31 percent, "have a long way to go," Husten said.
The U.S. smoking rate has dropped every year since 1998, when more than 24 percent of American adults lit up.
The CDC attributed the drop to such factors as smoking bans, media campaigns against smoking, higher cigarette taxes and insurance coverage for kick-the-habit programs.
By Daniel Yee