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ATLANTA

Cigarette smoking rose slightly for the first time in almost 15 years, dashing health officials’ hopes that the U.S. smoking rate had moved permanently below 20 percent.

A little under 21 percent of U.S. adults said they smoked, according to a new national survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up slightly from the year before, when just 19.8 percent said they were smokers. It also is the first increase in adult smoking since 1994, experts noted.

The increase was so small, it could be just a blip, so health officials and experts say smoking prevalence is flat, not rising. But they are unhappy.

The study, conducted in 2008, was released Nov. 12 and published in the CDC publication, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Also last week, the CDC released state-by-state results on smoking from a different survey, conducted by telephone, of more than 400,000 adults. West Virginia and Indiana had the highest smoking rates, at about 26 percent, but four other states — Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee — had rates about as high.

Utah had, by far, the lowest smoking rate, with only about 9 percent of Utah residents describing themselves as current smokers.

Many of the states that have the lowest smoking rates are those that have been the most aggressive about indoor smoking laws and about state taxes that drive up the cost of cigarettes, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC’s director.

Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and illness in the United States, and is a cause of cancers, heart disease and other fatal conditions.


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