Smoking rates plummet, but gap by income level is growing

Dr. Bruce Christiansen

The percentage of adults who smoke in the United States is at a historic low, but rates of cessation have been uneven: smoking has dropped 83 percent for people with a college degree and only 39 percent for people who have completed some level of high school. 

Bruce Christiansen, MA, PhD, senior scientist, General Internal Medicine and UW Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention discussed the issue on Wisconsin Public Radio's Central Time program. 

"The size of the gap is new every year because it's growing. If you look at the mid-1960s, when we started tracking this, there was no gap," he said. "We are going in the wrong direction." 

Citing factors such as tobacco industry marketing practices, barriers to quit-smoking attempts posed by poverty, and access to primary care, he explained that the burden of smoking is being increasingly borne by individuals facing socioeconomic challenges.