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Smoking rate down in U.S., world

Americans are rejecting the smoking habit at a surprisingly rapid rate, a trend that is going global.

But there are signs of increased smoking in poor countries and among teenagers and young women in several countries, and deaths blamed on smoking still are rising worldwide.

U.S. cigarette exports are down 25 percent, with 50-billion fewer cigarettes sent abroad in just one year. That is 2.5-billion fewer packs of cigarettes exported each year.

The number of cigarettes sold per person in the United States fell a record 8 percent last year, according to government data and a Worldwatch analysis that also cites per-capita declines in some of the heaviest smoking countries: France, Japan and, markedly, China, whose 1.25-billion people now smoke one-third of the world's cigarettes.

The anti-smoking campaign credits smoking bans and increased public awareness for the decline. The Agriculture Department cites higher taxes, price increases and the cumulative impact of 35 years of warnings from the surgeon general's office.

The industry says the decline is directly related to the rising price of cigarettes.

The World Health Organization plans to seek a treaty to further clear the global air of tobacco smoke and is promoting World No Tobacco Day on May 31. WHO predicts smoking-related diseases will kill 10-million people annually by the 2020s _ 2{ times the current toll.

WHO describes a "smoking epidemic" among younger women in Asia. In Spain and Sweden, surveys show more 15-year-old girls smoke than boys.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says smoking among young adults, age 18 to 24, has been rising, for the first time, to the level of those age 25 to 44. High school smoking rates are even higher.

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