Thursday is the 33rd annual Great American Smokeout, and it comes with news that smoking rates have declined in Iowa and the U.S. Christopher Squier of the Iowa Commission on Tobacco Use Prevention, says smoking rates in Iowa dropped to 18%.

Squier says they’re "very pleased" and seeing the results of a lot of work and "important legislation." Squier says one of the biggest impacts is from the cigarette tax increase. Squier says the decrease from a 23% smoking rate four or five years ago to 18% this year is "without a doubt" a result of the tax increase one year ago. He says every sign shows the smoking rate heading down and the recent public smoking ban should add to that.

Squier is a professor at the University of Iowa and is also a member of the American Cancer Society. He says there are areas where the anti-smoking effort needs more work. He says smoking among young adults is still higher than among the general population, and he says smoking among young women is also higher.

Squier says there needs to be more focus on those groups. He says stopping smoking isn’t easy, and support systems are key. He says smokers need help to stop and he says the Quitline in Iowa helps as it gives smokers access to the nicotine patch and gum and helps them quit. Squier says those who struggle giving up cigarettes should take heart that persistence will pay off.

Squier says three-quarters of all smokers want to quit, and about half try to quit every year, with only about seven percent who quit, do so for good. "And that means if you do quit and you take up smoking again, you don’t have to be alarmed, it does happen," Squier says, "you’ve got to try again. And in fact, it’s shown that the more often you try to quit, the easier it does get."

Squier says smokers will enjoy better health. He says many smokers have respiratory diseases, that he says will decrease rapidly once you quit smoking. Squier says the risk of other diseases will also go down, and after about 10 years the risk will be about the same as if you hadn’t smoked. You can call the American Cancer Society Quitline at 800-227-2345 for help in quitting, or visit the American Cancer Society’s website .