Adult cigarette smoking reaches new low -- but stays stubbornly high among some groups

About 17% of American adults smoked cigarettes in 2014 -- approximately a 20% drop from the rate of adult smoking in 2005, according to figures released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That figure is the lowest recorded since cigarette smoking has been tracked by the agency.

Among those who still smoke, the number of cigarettes smoked daily has fallen to 13.8, down from 16.7 in 2005, the CDC said.

In 1965, 42.4% of American adults smoked, and though the habit's prevalence has declined steadily, reducing the ranks of the addicted has become an increasingly uphill battle.

The CDC report underscores that the smoking habit has been hardest to extinguish among several categories of American adults -- most notably, the poor. Only 12.9% of adults who have private health insurance continue to smoke cigarettes, but 29.1% of those on Medicaid, the federally funded insurance program for low-income Americans, were current smokers in 2014, the report said. Current smokers make up 27.9% of the uninsured.

Among adults who live below the federal poverty level of $19,790 in annual income for a family of three, the rate of smoking stood at 26.3%.

Smoking rates also remained particularly high -- 43% -- among those with a general education development certificate, or GED, and among those who identify as multiracial (27.9%) or American Indian or Alaska Native (29.2%). Those identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual also had higher rates of smoking -- 23.9% in 2014.

The report comes as the Department of Housing and Urban Development has proposed a new rule that would ban cigarette smoking in buildings managed by 31,000 public-housing agencies across the country. Officials said the rule would protect more than 1 million Americans, including an estimated 760,000 children, from the effects of secondhand smoke that migrates among units and from common areas and hallways into homes occupied by low-income Americans.

The proposal won applause from the American Lung Assn. and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which noted that 40% of children living in federally subsidized housing -- and 70% of African American children generally -- are exposed to secondhand smoke inside their homes.

Although Medicaid programs in all 50 states cover some tobacco-cessation treatments, only nine states (Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Vermont) cover individual and group counseling and all seven of the medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration to help people quit smoking.

Even in those states, would-be quitters face barriers such as co-payments, prior-authorization requirements or limits on how many times a patient can try to quit in a year, or how long he or she can stay on medication to help kick the habit.

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