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US Cigarette Smoking Rate Sees a 5% Decrease Since 2005


According to CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the cigarette smoking rate of adults in the United States has seen a significant drop during the decade from 2005 to 2015.

According to CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the cigarette smoking rate of adults in the United States has seen a significant drop during the decade from 2005 to 2015. While 20.9% (45.1 million) adults were active smokers in 2005, the number fell down to 15.1% (36.5 million) in 2015.

The reported outcomes are the result of an assessment by CDC of the most recent national estimates of cigarette smoking prevalence among adults, at least 18 years old, using data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The 2015 core NHIS questionnaire included 33,672 adults who were at least 18 years old, 55% of whom responded to smoking-related questions. Current smokers were defined as adults who had smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and were smoking at least on some days at the time of the survey.

While cigarette smoking saw a steady decline, the authors report that in 2015, the rate was higher among:

  • Adult males (16.7%)
  • Adults between 25 and 44 years (17.7%)
  • American Indian/Alaska Natives (21.9%)
  • Those with a General Education Development certificate (34.1%)
  • Individuals living below the federal poverty level (26.1%)
  • Midwesterners (18.7%)
  • Lesbian/gay/bisexual individuals (20.6%)
  • Those who had a disability/limitation (21.5%)
  • People who had serious psychological distress (40.6%)
  • Were either uninsured (27.4%) or were enrolled in Medicaid (27.8%)

The study found a decline in the daily smoking rate, from 36.5 million (80.8%) in 2005 to 27.6 million (75.7%) in 2015; however, the number of individuals who smoked on some days increased from 8.7 million to 8.9 million during that time period.

The authors strongly believe in the impact of population-based interventions such as raising the price of tobacco products, comprehensive smoke-free laws, anti-tobacco mass media campaigns, and barrier-free access to tobacco cessation counseling and medications. They recommend continued use of these tactics to reduce cigarette smoking and tobacco-related diseases and death in the population.

The FDA-led media campaign, The Real Cost, seeks to educate teenagers on the risks associated with tobacco use. The drugstore giant CVS, on its part, has stopped selling tobacco products in its stores and announced a multimillion dollar initiative earlier this year to influence the choice of the younger generation against using these products.

“We are encouraged that adult smoking is at an all-time low, yet tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States,” Harold P. Wimmer, national president and chief executive officer of the American Lung Association, said in a statement. He emphasized the need for persistent policy efforts to reach all sections of our society and to overcome the disparities observed in the MMWR.

While tobacco tax increases are another public policy option, results from statewide ballots during the presidential elections saw mixed results. Missouri and North Dakota voted against a tax hike on cigarettes, while Colorado and California voted for it.

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