Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest about 15% of US adults smoke cigarettes. This is down 5% compared to 2005 and down 10% compared to 1997.
In 1964, when the Surgeon General released the first report linking cigarettes with diseases, over 40% of US adults smoked.
According to the CDC, the average number of cigarettes smoked each day by “daily smokers” dropped from 17 in 2005 to 14 in 2016.
The percentage of “daily smokers” who smoked between 20 and 29 cigarettes each day declined from 35% in 2005 to 28% in 2016, while the percentage who smoked less than 10 cigarettes per day increased from 16% in 2005 to 25% in 2016.
The campaign to reduce cigarette use has been celebrated as one of the most successful public health campaigns in US history. Experts credit the decline in smoking to:
- Aggressive prevention tactics focused on young adults
- Legislation making cigarettes more expensive and harder to obtain
- Anti-smoking laws
- Changes in advertising
- Fewer instances of smoking in film
Combined, these factors created a culture where smoking isn’t “cool” anymore – and that’s enough to convince most teenagers not to start.
The bad news here is that tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in America, and it’s not declining among some populations. According to the CDC, you are more likely to smoke cigarettes if you:
- Are a man between the ages of 25 and 64
- Have less education
- Lack health insurance
- Live below the poverty level
- Have a physical disability
- Live in the Midwest or South
- Are gay or bisexual
“It may be incredible to some people who don’t see people smoke around them,” says CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, but tobacco use “continues to kill nearly half a million people per year.”
In addition to the ongoing campaign against cigarettes, another challenge for the CDC is how to halt the rise of e-cigarettes – which are increasingly used by teens and young adults. And while most states ban the sale of e-cigarettes to individuals under the age of 18, minors can easily purchase them online.
E-cigarettes have been successful in helping some adults quit smoking, notes Frieden, but unfortunately, “most adults who use e-cigarettes continue to smoke regular cigarettes. And far too many kids are using e-cigarettes, and that is risking the progress for the future.”