US adult smoking rate falls to all-time low

The U.S. adult smoking rate reached an all-time low of about 14% in 2017, according to new data from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

How to get the word out about lung cancer screening

The data come from National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which tracks cigarette smoking, as well as other health measures, among U.S. adults ages 18 and older. NCHS for the first time stratified the data on smoking based on respondents' geographic location. The new data do not cover electronic cigarette use, though NHIS does monitor such use.

Findings

Overall, researchers found 13.9% of U.S. adults smoked in 2017, down from 15.8% in 2016. According to CDC, the U.S. adult smoking rate has fallen nearly 67% since the federal government conducted the first NHIS in 1965.

According to the latest data, U.S. adults who live in large and small metropolitan areas were less likely to smoke than those who do not live in metropolitan areas. In particular, the researchers found the prevalence of current cigarette use in 2017 was:

  • 11.4% among adults who lived in large metropolitan areas with a population of one million or more residents;
  • 15.6% among adults who lived in small metropolitan areas with a population of fewer than 250,000 residents; and
  • 21.5% among adults who did not live in metropolitan areas.

In addition, the researchers found men in 2017 were more likely than women to be current or former smokers. Specifically, the prevalence of:

  • Current cigarette use was 15.8% among men and 12.2% among women in 2017; and
  • Former cigarette use was 25.7% among men and 19.5% among women in 2017.

As such, the researchers found men in 2017 were less likely to report never having smoked cigarettes than women, at 68.3% compared with 58.5%.

Comments

K. Michael Cummings, of the tobacco research program at Medical University of South Carolina, said the U.S. adult smoking rate had remained relatively unchanged over the last two years but the latest data show a general decline. "Everything is pointed in the right direction," Cummings said, citing declining cigarette sales and other indicators. Still, Cummings noted the data mean more than 30 million U.S. adults in 2017 were current smokers.

Matthew Myers, president of the anti-smoking group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, "The long-term, continuing decline in cigarette smoking is a public health success story of extraordinary importance." Myers added that the decline in smoking generated billions in savings on tobacco-related health care costs and saved millions of lives.

Paul Billings, senior vice president of the American Lung Association, said, "While the progress is welcome ... much more needs to be done to ensure all Americans benefit from policies designed to address tobacco use" (Stobbe, AP/USA Today, 6/19; Roubein, The Hill, 6/19; Akron Beacon Journal/Ohio.com, 6/19; Boyles, MedPage Today, 6/19).

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