(Bloomberg) — More than half of American smokers tried to quit the habit as the daily use of cigarettes fell, U.S. health officials say.

About 19% of U.S. adults, or 43.8 million, reported smoking daily or most days in 2011, little changed from 19.3% a year earlier, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week. That’s down from more than 20% in 2005. About 52% of those surveyed reported trying to stop smoking in the preceding year.

The number of cigarettes Americans are smoking each day has fallen. In 2011, 9.1% of daily smokers reported puffing on more than 30 cigarettes daily, a drop from 12.6% six year earlier. Even so, the number of smokers in the United States still is too high, exceeding the 12% goal for American adults, the CDC reports.

“Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States,” the Atlanta-based agency reveals in its report, citing 2010 data from the U.S. Surgeon General showing that about 443,000 U.S. adults die from smoking-related causes annually.

Smoking costs the United States an estimated $96 billion in direct medical expenses and $97 billion in lost productivity each year, according to the report. The CDC calls for measures including raising the price of tobacco products, increasing access to programs aimed to help people quit smoking, airing graphic commercials about the dangers of tobacco and implementing smoke- free laws.

“Such population-based interventions have been shown to reduce population smoking prevalence as well as overall smoking intensity,” the CDC says.

Those smoking fewer than 10 cigarettes a day increased to 22% in 2011 from 16.4% six years earlier, the agency says.

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