Smoking shortens the average person's life by two decades and is still the most preventable cause of death in the nation, federal health officials said.

In a Centers for Disease Control report, citing the decline of smoking in America to less than 30 percent of the population, Utah was listed as having only 45 smoking-related deaths for every 100,000 persons.The report, which coincided with Thursday's Great American Smokeout, calculated that smoking ended 3.6 million years of life prematurely in 1985 and that more prevention programs are needed to decrease smoking further.

That translated into roughly two decades for every smoker who died, said Thomas Novotny, a medical epidemiologist with the centers' Office of Smoking and Health in Rockville, Md.

Alcohol is the second leading cause of premature death, while injury, suicide and murder also rank highly, Novotny said.

"Smoking still causes a great deal of death and disability in the United States," Novotny said. "It causes more deaths than alcohol and drugs combined. In terms of the `Great American Smokeout,' we're trying to get across that smoking is still the most preventable cause of death in the country."

The government's latest estimates say smoking-related health-care costs annually cost $65 billion.

A state-by-state study developed by Minnesota's Health Department of Health blamed smoking for 16 percent, or 314,000, of all the deaths that occurred in the United States in 1985.

The average number of deaths blamed on smoking in the 50 states and the District of Columbia was 6,168.

"Of all smoking-attributable deaths in the United States, 67 percent were among men, 32 percent among women and less than 1 percent among children under age 5," the centers said. "These deaths in young children resulted from low birthweight-short gestation, respiratory distress syndrome, other respiratory diseases of the newborn and other diseases of children associated with maternal smoking.

"Most smokers realize the evidence is overwhelming in terms of risk, and 80 percent or more would like to quit," he said. "Very few smokers and very few in the rest of the population don't recognize the hazards. But most smokers are addicted by age 21 and it's very hard to overcome nicotine addiction."