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Calling It Quits: American Smoking Hits 50-Year Low

Fewer Americans are smoking, with the smoking rate at its lowest point in 50 years, federal health experts reported Wednesday.

Just under 18 percent of Americans are smokers, down from 21 percent in 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

"That is the lowest prevalence of adult smoking since the CDC's Nation Health Interview Survey began keeping such records in 1965," CDC said in a statement, with 42.1 million people still smoking in 2013.

"There is encouraging news in this study, but we still have much more work to do to help people quit," said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "We can bring down cigarette smoking rates much further, much faster, if strategies proven to work are put in place like funding tobacco control programs at the CDC-recommended levels, increasing prices of tobacco products, implementing and enforcing comprehensive smoke-free laws, and sustaining hard-hitting media campaigns."

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the United States, according to the CDC. Heart disease, cancer, stroke, lung disease and other ills caused by smoking kill more than 480,000 Americans each year.

And some sources of tobacco smoke, such as cigars and hookahs, are becoming more popular, especially among young adults and adolescents, CDC says.

Susan Liss, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, says states are often not doing nearly enough to battle smoking.

"In recent years, states have cut and severely underfunded tobacco prevention and cessation programs and progress at the state level in enacting higher tobacco taxes and smoke-free laws has slowed greatly," Liss said in a statement.

"Without a serious national commitment to adopt proven strategies to reduce death and disease caused by tobacco, 5.6 million children alive today will die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases."

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IN-DEPTH

-- Maggie Fox