The number of U.S. adults who smoke cigarettes has reached the lowest level ever recorded, according to new government data. However, despite the progress, health officials say too many Americans are still using tobacco products.
According to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institute of Health’s National Cancer Institute (NCI), an estimated 14 percent of U.S. adults — about 34 million people— had smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days when they were surveyed in 2017. That’s down from 15.5 percent in 2016. The figure has declined a whopping 67 percent since 1965.
However, the latest data showed that about 47 million, or 1 in 5, Americans still use a variety of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, which are increasingly popular among young people.
“This new all-time low in cigarette smoking among U.S. adults is a tremendous public health accomplishment – and it demonstrates the importance of continued proven strategies to reduce smoking,” CDC Director Robert Redfield, said in a statement. “Despite this progress, work remains to reduce the harmful health effects of tobacco use.”
Researchers observed a particularly notable decline in cigarette smoking among young adults. In 2017, about 10 percent of young adults aged 18 to 24 smoked cigarettes, compared to 13 percent in 2016.
Cigarette smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States, killing an estimated 480,000 Americans each year. About 16 million Americans suffer from a smoking-related illness. Officials say it is responsible for the overwhelming burden of death and disease from tobacco use.
The new data is based off a nationally representative survey of more than 26,000 adults aged 18 and older. The report was published today in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Participants were asked about their use of tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, hookah/water pipes/pipes, and smokeless tobacco.
The report found that cigarettes were the most commonly used product among U.S. adults at 14 percent. This was followed by cigars, cigarillos, or filtered little cigars at 3.8 percent; e-cigarettes at 2.8 percent; smokeless tobacco at 2.1 percent; and pipes, water pipes, or hookahs at 1 percent.
The use of tobacco products was higher among people who were uninsured; people with a disability; people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual; and people with an annual household income under $35,000.
Geographically, adults living in the Midwest or the South were more likely to use tobacco.
Use of tobacco was highest among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Natives, followed by multiracial, white, and black adults.
About 2 in 5 adults who reported serious psychological distress said they used a tobacco product, compared to 1 in 5 of those without such conditions.
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“For more than half a century, cigarette smoking has been the leading cause of cancer mortality in the United States. Eliminating smoking in America would, over time, eliminate about one-third of all cancer deaths,” said NCI Director Norman E. Sharpless, M.D. “The persistent disparities in adult smoking prevalence described in this report emphasize the need for further research to accelerate reductions in tobacco use among all Americans.”
The report also calls for comprehensive tobacco control programs at the national, state, and local levels to further drive down the number of Americans using tobacco.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called the continued drop in adult smoking rates “encouraging” and said the FDA is committed to accelerating declines.
“We’ve taken new steps to ultimately render combustible cigarettes minimally or non-addictive and to advance a framework to encourage innovation of potentially less harmful products such as e-cigarettes for adults who still seek access to nicotine, as well as support the development of novel nicotine replacement drug therapies,” Gottlieb said in a statement. “At the same time we’re also working to protect kids from the dangers of tobacco product use, including e-cigarettes.”
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