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November 18, 2019

Rate of cigarette smoking has hit an all-time low, CDC finds

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    The percentage of American adults who smoke cigarettes hit an all-time low of 13.7% in 2018, but rates of e-cigarette use increased—especially among young adults—according to a CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published Thursday.

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    For the report, CDC, FDA, and the National Cancer Institute analyzed data from the 2018 National Health Interview Survey.


    CDC found that 13.7% of respondents, representing roughly 34.2 million U.S. adults, reported smoking cigarettes in 2018, representing a roughly 66% drop since CDC started collecting data on cigarette smoking in 1965.

    According to CDC, 19.7% of respondents, representing an estimated 49.1 million U.S. adults, said they had used a tobacco product in 2018, with cigarettes being the most popular tobacco product used, followed by cigars, cigarillos, and small filtered cigars:

    CDC found that reported use of e-cigarettes increased to 3.2% in 2018, up from 2.8% in 2017. The increase was particularly stark among adults ages 18 to 24, with reported e-cigarette use among that age group growing from 5.2% in 2017 to 7.6% in 2018.

    According to CDC, reported use of smokeless tobacco also increased, rising from 2.1% in 2017 to 2.4% in 2018.


    CDC Director Robert Redfield said, "This marked decline in cigarette smoking is the achievement of a consistent and coordinated effort by the public health community and our many partners. Yet, our work is far from over."

    Brian King, deputy director for research translation in CDC's office on smoking and health, said the report's findings are both good and bad. On the one hand, cigarette smoking rates have hit an all-time low, he said, but "[o]n balance, over 34 million adults are smoking cigarettes, and we also have 50 million adults using some tobacco product."

    King also expressed concern over the increase in e-cigarette use among young adults. "What we don't want to be doing is playing a game of public health whack-a-mole where we let the use of some products go up while others go down, particularly among the young adult population," he said (Nedelman, CNN, 11/14; LaVito, CNBC, 11/14; Owens, "Vitals," Axios, 11/15; Hellmann, The Hill, 11/14).

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