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New Report Ranks R.I. 19th in Nation for Adult Smoking, Third-lowest for Youth Tobacco Use

PROVIDENCE - A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released today shows how each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. is faring in implementing proven strategies that reduce tobacco use, such as comprehensive smoke-free policies, media campaigns, higher prices on tobacco products, and access to cessation services. The CDC's Tobacco Control State Highlights 2012 shows that 20 percent of Rhode Island adults smoke, giving the state the 19th lowest smoking rate among all states.* Rhode Island had the third-lowest youth smoking rate in the nation, with 11.4 percent of Rhode Island youth currently smoking cigarettes. Nationally, 19 percent of adults and 18.1 percent of high school students still smoke; confirmation that, despite enormous progress, declines in smoking rates have slowed in recent years.

The report is particularly significant because it highlights important associations between smoking rates and legislative tobacco control activities. Eight states raised their cigarette excise taxes a total of nine times since the last report was issued in April, 2010, and five states have passed comprehensive smoke-free laws since then.

"It's no coincidence that Rhode Island has the third-lowest youth smoking rate and the second-highest cigarette excise tax in the nation," said Michael Fine M.D., director of HEALTH. "Raising the tax rate is a proven best practice strategy for keeping cigarettes out of the hands of young people. We need to remain vigilant in order to continue this positive trend."

Although many states have taken steps to reduce smoking rates, the report reveals a significant slowdown in legislative tobacco control activity that took place earlier in the decade across the nation. In Rhode Island, the adult smoking rate has seen a dramatic reduction from 23 percent in 2001 to 16 percent in 2010, but has remained stagnant in the last few years.

"The fact that we rank 19th in adult smoking shows that much work still needs to be done," said Fine. "Having the resources to provide comprehensive statewide cessation services is critical to a successful tobacco control program. The American Lung Association recently gave us a 'D' in this area, so we must prioritize reducing these percentages."

In addition to providing cessation services to help smokers quit and increasing the cigarette excise tax, other proven interventions include running high-quality media campaigns to promote non-smoking as a social norm, engaging youth and community members on tobacco control issues, and enforcing restrictions that prevent youth access to tobacco.

"Even after significant progress in reducing tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure in the last decade, much more work needs to be done to end the tobacco-use epidemic," said Tim McAfee, M.D. MPH, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "There is excellent research that clearly identifies what needs to be done to eliminate tobacco use. States can accelerate their efforts to save lives and reduce tobacco-related healthcare costs."

To get help with quitting smoking, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit To access the State Highlights report, visit

* The 2011 adult smoking prevalence rate appears significantly higher at 20.2% when compared to the 2010 rate of 15.7%; however, the actual number of Rhode Islanders who smoke hasn't necessarily changed. The difference in rates is a result of two factors - the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which collects smoking data, used a new weighting method in all states called "raking" and a new sampling method to include more cell phone users. The raking method calculates the data in a way that equalizes differences between the number of respondents and the actual population. The increased cell phone sample captures a greater diversity of Rhode Islanders. Together, the two methods ensure that the information collected is a more accurate estimate of the state's smoking population. For more information, visit

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