Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in United States, with cigarettes being the most common tobacco product. Tobacco is linked to 40 percent of all cancer cases and 30 percent of cancer deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths annually in the U.S. and reduces life expectancy by 10 years. In a promising public health development, cigarette smoking rates are dropping significantly.
In its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released on November 10, the CDC assessed smoking rates using data from 2005 to 2015 from the National Health Interview Survey, an annual, nationally representative in-person survey of American adults. According to the report, the proportion of current cigarette smokers declined from 20.9 percent in 2005, representing 45.1 million adults, to 15.1 percent in 2015, a total of 36.5 million adults. From 2014 to 2015 alone, there was a 1.7 percent drop. Additionally, the proportion of daily smokers declined from 16.9 percent to 11.4 percent in the decade.
Cigarette smoking rates varied based on a number of demographic factors. Smoking rates in 2015 were higher among males than females at 16.7 percent and 13.6 percent respectively. The proportion of current smokers also varied significantly by age. American adults aged 18 to 24 smoked at a rate of 13 percent, ages 25 to 44 at 17.7 percent, ages 45 to 64 at 17 percent, and ages 65 and over at 8.4 percent. Notably, the highest decline in smoking rates from 2005 to 2015 within a specific age group was a 46.6 percent drop in the age 18 to 24 group. The highest prevalence of smokers exists in the Midwest at 18.7 percent and the lowest is in the West at 12.4 percent. In the Northeast, the rate of current smokers is 13.5 percent, and in the South it is 15.3 percent.
Additionally, smoking rates are correlated with education level. 34.1 percent of adults with a GED smoke, compared to just 3.6 percent of Americans with a graduate degree. Also, smoking rates are nearly twice as high rates for people living under poverty line than those above it.
Among current smokers, the number of daily smokers declined from 36.5 million, representing 80.8 percent of current smokers, to 27.6 million, 75.7 percent of the population of smokers. Among daily smokers, the mean number of cigarettes declined from 16.7 to 14.2 in the decade.
These figures suggest that efforts to reduce smoking rates, including tobacco price increases, smoke-free laws, smoking-cessation programs, and media campaigns, have been effective. In 2009, the federal cigarette tax increase 62 cents to $1.01 a pack. Additionally, electronic cigarettes grew in popularity in this time period, with about 10 percent of the population using the devices. Some have linked use of these devices to decreased cigarette smoking.
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