(iStock)

Cigarette smoking among U.S. adults continues to slide among almost all racial and ethnic groups, but big disparities remain, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among whites and blacks, a quarter still light up. By contrast, barely one in 10 Asians uses cigarettes, while nearly four in 10 Native Americans and Alaska Natives do so.

Only among Native Americans and Alaska Natives did the smoking rate rise between 2002-2005 and 2010-2013 -- from 37.1 percent to 38.9 percent, the CDC found.

The agency's analysis, based on data from 180,000 respondents to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, does not drill down on socioeconomic characteristics. Still, Stanton Glantz, a researcher and prominent tobacco-control activist, thinks a pattern is clear.

“In general, smoking is getting more and more concentrated among disadvantaged groups. And it's poor people, ethnic minorities, people with mental illness,” said Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. "When you look at where tobacco retailers are concentrated, they are in the poorer parts of town. The industry is going to where they think they can sell the cigarettes."


CDC experts attributed the continued decrease in most adult rates to the higher cost of tobacco products, advocacy campaigns and the promotion of smoking-cessation programs.

The increase in cigarette use among Native Americans may stem from a couple unique factors. Glantz noted that changes in government policies that tax tobacco products and promote clean indoor air laws don't apply to sovereign nations.

The biggest drop in prevalence between the two periods studied was among Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. Nearly one in three smoked in the early to mid-2000s, the study found. Not even a decade later, less than a quarter did.

The report provides a deeper look at Asian and Hispanic smokers, showing that Koreans and Puerto Ricans, for example, have much higher smoking rates -- 20 percent and 28.5 percent, respectively -- than those ethnic groups overall.

“Even though the overall cigarette-smoking rate is declining, disparities remain among racial and ethnic groups and within subgroups,” Bridgette Garrett, associate director for health equity in the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said in a statement. “Looking beyond broad racial and ethnic population categories can help better focus the strategies that we know work to reduce tobacco use among sub-groups with higher rates of use.”

According to the CDC, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and contributes to more than 480,000 premature deaths each year.

Read more: 

Obamacare’s surcharge for smokers may have backfired

Study: Teens using e-cigs much more likely to start smoking cigarettes

CVS says its cigarette move affected other stores’ retail sales as well