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After more than a decade of appeals, and nearly two decades after they were first ordered to do so, big tobacco companies are running ads admitting that smoking is deadly and addictive, and their manufacturers know this.
Despite the warnings, an estimated one fifth of Americans still light up. But these smokers aren’t evenly distributed across the country, or across class lines. As the Pew Research Center notes, there are differences in who smokes, and where they do it.
Smoking rates today are highest among the poor and less-educated, according to government data. For instance, 29% of people living below the official poverty level smoke, versus 17.9% of people at or above poverty. People whose highest educational level is a General Educational Development (GED) certificate — typically high-school dropouts — are nine times more likely to smoke than people with graduate degrees (45.3% versus 5%).
Smoking rates vary considerably by geography. The highest rates in the 2009-2011 period were in nonurban counties in the South (31.9%) and small towns in the South (31%) and Midwest (30%). The lowest rates are in big Western cities (15%) and their suburban fringes (16.9%).
Will these warnings lead people to quit?
- Robin Koval CEO and president, Truth Initiative
- Maggie Fox Senior health writer, NBC News
- Terry Pechacek Health Management and Policy professor, Georgia State University
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