CDC: Smoking Rates Highest Among People with Disabilities

Smoking prevalence among people with disabilities is nearly 50 percent higher than among people without disabilities, according to a new study from the CDC in Preventing Chronic Disease. The study found that in 2004, smoking prevalence for people with disabilities is highest in Delaware (39.4 percent) and lowest in Puerto Rico (16.5 percent). About 70 percent of people with disabilities who smoke and had visited a doctor in the last year had been advised to quit smoking; however, the study found that more than 40 percent of those advised to quit reported not being told about the types of tobacco-cessation treatment available.

"About 50 million Americans are living with a disability and most Americans will experience a disability some time during the course of their lives," said Dr. Edwin Trevathan, director of CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. "The release of these findings during Disability Awareness Month reminds us that disparities persist in the health and health care of people with disabilities."

Quitting smoking is the most important step smokers can take to improve their overall health and reduce their risk for disease, CDC says. Approximately 10 percent of smokers have a smoking-related chronic disease, primarily heart disease or emphysema. Smokers who quit will, on average, live longer and have fewer years living with disability. Disparities in smoking prevalence, in addition to barriers to the use of preventive services (such as traveling to a doctor's appointment) put people with disabilities at risk for declining health.

Research confirms that people with disabilities are less likely than people without disabilities to receive preventive health care and therefore are more subject to illness and disease. According to the 2005 Surgeon General's Call to Improve the Health and Wellness of Persons with Disabilities, the resulting higher health care expenditure costs and productivity losses for people with disabilities, which exceeds $300 billion, can be understood as a result of too little attention to the other health needs of these individuals by health providers.

People with and without disabilities who smoke can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) (TTY 1-800-332-8615) or visit www.smokefree.gov for quitting assistance. The toll-free number is a single access point to the National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines. Callers are automatically routed to their state's quitline services.

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