A new report today shows there are about 3 million fewer smokers in America than there were five years ago.
The new vital signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that 19.3 percent of American adults – or 45.3 million people over the age of 18 – are smoking cigarettes, down from 20.9 percent in 2005.
Researchers credit the trend to high-profile anti-smoking campaigns, higher taxes on cigarettes, new graphics on individual packs, and an increased number of indoor smoking bans that now are in place in more than half the nation.
Getting Americans to smoke less has been U.S. government policy since the 1960s. Under its Healthy People initiative, the Department of Health says it wants to bring the national prevalence of smoking to below 12 percent by 2020.
"People who are continuing to smoke are smoking less – but we can do much better by continuing to invest in tobacco control programs at all levels,” the CDC report said.
Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke kill an estimated 443,000 Americans each year.
For every one smoking-related death, another 20 people live with a smoking-related disease, according to the CDC.
"In many ways, the findings we are releasing today are good news," Tim McAfee, director of the CDC's office on smoking and health, told reporters in a telephone conference today.
"It is definitely a slower rate of decline, but we are still moving in the right direction."
The cost of cigarettes varies between states, but prices per pack have increased substantially over the past few years. For instance, a pack of Virginia Slims Menthol sells for about six dollars, according to cigaretteprices.com.
The American Council for Drug Education reports there are about 47 million smokers in the United States. About 23 percent of adults smoke, and about 30 percent of adolescents.
It is widely acknowledged that people who haven’t used tobacco by age 21 are likely to remain non-smokers. So it would seem reasonable for much tobacco advertising to target potential adolescent users, although tobacco companies deny this. What is undeniable, however, are statistics showing that the average age of first tobacco use in the United States is 13, drug educators say.
“We know what works: higher tobacco prices, hard-hitting media campaigns, graphic health warnings on cigarette packs, and 100 percent smoke-free policies, with easily accessible help for those who want to quit,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden.
“States with the strongest tobacco control programs have the greatest success at reducing smoking.”
Smoking is most prevalent in West Virginia and Kentucky, with about one in four adult smokers in both states. There are also elevated numbers in California and Utah.
Smoking costs about $193 billion annually in direct health care expenses and lost productivity, according to the CDC.
Last month, four U.S. tobacco companies filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over new rules calling for graphic health warnings on cigarette packing, calling them "unconstitutional."
Tobacco control programs that have been proven to reduce smoking also have been proven to reduce the health care costs directly related to tobacco use. Smokers can get free resources and help quitting by calling 1–800–QUIT–NOW (784–8669) or visiting www.smokefree.gov
Did you know?
Nicotine, perhaps the most commonly recognized ingredient of tobacco, is an addictive central nervous system stimulant. When nicotine is taken into the lungs, it is transmitted to the brain in seconds. It causes the heart to beat more rapidly, drawing in and pushing out more blood. It also makes the veins and arteries constrict, thus requiring the heart to labor harder. This results in increased blood pressure and heart rate.