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YOUNGER, LESS EDUCATED PEOPLE MORE LIKELY TO SMOKE, STUDY SAYS

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Younger people with limited educations are more likely than anyone to light up and should be the target of campaigns against cigarettes, a study released by the federal Centers for Disease Control concluded.

A 1988 survey of about 20,000 people in 36 states and the District of Columbia found that less-educated people, who also tend to be of a lower social and economic status, are more likely to be smokers."There has been progress in reducing cigarette smoking. But the study shows most of the progress is limited to the well-educated," said Dr. Luis Escobedo of the Atlanta-based CDC, who analyzed aspects of the survey released Thursday.

"The emphasis must become more targeted," he said. "Some of that already is being done through substance abuse programs. Tobacco is an addictive substance."

The study said cultural factors, such as the high Mormon population in Utah, also may affect who smokes. Utah had the lowest rate of smokers in its over-18 population (18.1 percent) and former smokers (9.1 percent).

Escobedo said the National Cancer Institute has a program in inner-city schools working to reduce the odds of children becoming regular smokers, as do private institutes and some state health departments.

The telephone survey sought people 18 or older.

Results showed that for people older than 35 the likelihood of being a current smoker increased with each decrease in the level of education.

But for those ages 18 to 34, the chance of being a current smoker decreased substantially only for those with more than a high school education, while smoking rates for high school dropouts and those with high school diplomas were more nearly equal.

Kentucky had the highest percentage of current smokers (37.9 percent).

The median figure for current smokers was 26.2 percent, meaning half the states were above that figure and half below. The median figure for former smokers was 15.1 percent.

The study said other factors affecting who smokes include smoking prevention activities such as school programs, state cigarette taxes and the intensity of promotional events and advertising by the tobacco industry.

The study found that 41 percent of the 18-to-34 group with less than a high school education are smokers.