The rate of cigarette smoking among adults in the United States dropped from 20.9% in 2005 to 17.8% in 2013, the lowest it has been since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recording such data in 1965.
The numbers come from the Nov. 28 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR 2014;63:1108-12), which also states that the percentage of daily smokers who went through 20-29 cigarettes per day dropped from 34.9% in 2005 to 29.3% in 2013. Conversely, the rate of daily smokers who consumed 10 or fewer cigarettes per day increased from 16.4% in 2005 to 23.3% in 2013.
“Though smokers are smoking fewer cigarettes, cutting back by a few cigarettes a day rather than quitting completely does not produce significant health benefits,” Brian King, Ph.D., a senior scientific advisor with the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said in a statement. “Smokers who quit before they’re 40 years old can get back almost all of the 10 years of life expectancy smoking takes away.”
Despite the strides in cutting down overall smoking among American adults, certain demographics continue to struggle. A total of 42.1 million adults remained smokers in 2013. Smoking rates remain especially high among males, younger individuals, those who are multiracial or American Indian/Alaska Native, have less education, live below the federal poverty level, live in the South or Midwest, have a disability or other limitation, and those who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
“There is encouraging news in this study, but we still have much more work to do to help people quit,” Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, noted in the statement. “We can bring down cigarette smoking rates much further, much faster, if strategies proven to work are put in place like funding tobacco control programs at the CDC-recommended levels, increasing prices of tobacco products, implementing and enforcing comprehensive smoke-free laws, and sustaining hard-hitting media campaigns.”
According to the CDC, cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the United States, claiming over 480,000 lives annually. Its impact can also be felt economically, with cigarette smoking costing the United States at least $133 billion in direct medical care for adults and more than $156 billion in lost productivity. Meanwhile, the rates of other forms of tobacco consumption, such as cigars and hookahs, are not declining.
Surveys cited by the CDC estimate that 70% of smokers want to quit.