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Smoking rate falls but tobacco toll remains high: CDC

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(CBS) Are all those anti-smoking campaigns starting to get through to Americans?

Pictures: America's smokiest cities

A new government report shows that 19 percent of U.S. adults are smoking these days, down from 21 percent in 2009 - and they're smoking fewer cigarettes than before.

That's good news, right?

"Any decline in the number of people who smoke and the number of cigarettes consumed is a step in the right direction," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, said in a written statement. "However, tobacco use remains a significant health burden for the people of United States."

The CDC officials behind the report - published in the September 6 issue of "Vital Signs" - said the two percent decline is smaller than they had hoped, and only accounts for 3 million fewer smokers.

The report showed while the percentage of adults who smoke 30 or more cigarettes per day is down 4 percent, the percentage of those who smoke nine or fewer cigarettes a day increased from 16.4 percent in 2005 to 22 percent in 2010.

The authors stress that smoking fewer cigarettes still carries major health consequences.

"You don't have to be a heavy smoker or a long-time smoker to get a smoking-related disease or have a heart attack or asthma attack," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, said in a written statement. "The sooner you quit smoking, the sooner your body can begin to heal."

Fifty percent of adults who continue to smoke will die from smoking-related causes, according to the report. About 443,000 Americans die from tobacco use and second-hand smoke every year.

Those who don't die might not fare much better - for every smoking-related death, another two smokers will suffer a smoking-related disease.

The CDC said states need to step up their tobacco control policies. California saw nearly a 50 percent decrease in adult smoking rates since the state began the nation's longest-running tobacco control program in 1988.

"This slowing trend shows the need for intensified efforts to reduce cigarette smoking among adults," said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC's office on smoking and health. "We know what works: higher tobacco prices, hard-hitting media campaigns, graphic health warnings on cigarette packs, and 100 percent smoke-free policies, with easily accessible help for those who want to quit."

Click here to view the CDC's report.

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