Nov 8, 2018, 1:10 PM ET

Cigarette smoking in the US hits record low, but it’s not all good news


Cigarette smoking rates in the United States are the lowest they’ve ever been, yet one in five people still use tobacco products, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cigarette smoking rates have dropped by 67 percent since 1965, when the U.S. government first began tracking cigarette smoking rates. It is estimated that 14 percent of American adults (34 million people) were smokers in 2017, a drop from 15.5 percent in 2016. For younger adults, ages 18 to 24, the rates were even lower, dropping from 13 percent in 2016 to 10 percent in 2017.

PHOTO: A smoker snuffs out a cigarette at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., June 22, 2012.Rich Pedroncelli/AP, FILE
A smoker snuffs out a cigarette at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., June 22, 2012.

“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,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield in a press release. “Despite this progress, work remains to reduce the harmful health effects of tobacco use.”

While cigarettes are the most common form of tobacco used, the press release noted that other forms of tobacco are also used widely, including e-cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, water pipes and hookahs. In total, about 47 million people in the U.S. use tobacco products.

Certain groups of people were more likely to use tobacco products than others, the CDC said. These groups included people with incomes below $35,000, and those who had a GED, were uninsured, insured by Medicaid or received public assistance.

Some ethnic groups were also pointed out as more likely to use, including non-Hispanic American Indian/Native Americans, multiracial, white or black adults.

Higher rates of tobacco use were also seen in adults who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Being divorced, separated, widowed, single, never-married or not living with a partner was also associated with higher use.

PHOTO: Cigarettes are displayed on a shelf, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in New York.Mark Lennihan/AP, FILE
Cigarettes are displayed on a shelf, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in New York.

Adults living in the Midwest or the south tended to use tobacco the most.

The CDC mentioned that serious psychological distress was associated with an increase in tobacco use, with 40.8 percent of adults who reported serious psychological distress reporting tobacco use compared to 18.5 percent in those without serious psychological distress.

“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,” NCI Director Dr. Norman E. Sharpless said in the press release, “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.”

Anna Jackson, M.D., is a psychiatry resident at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

News - Cigarette smoking in the US hits record low, but it’s not all good news

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  • Patrick Anderson

    It is about to skyrocket back up thanks to the FDA!

  • Forward forward

    Smoking took my dad, and my mom's dad. Heckuva way to go. Grandpa suffered pretty badly. Dad was worse. Still breaks my heart to think about.

  • Forward forward

    Good news whenever they report that smoking has decreased. Education is key, and raising taxes on cigarettes is a deterrent, too.

  • poultrygeist

    I smoked for 40 yrs. Did my first round of chemo while I was in the hospital for four days a couple weeks ago after they told me I had a mass on my lung and did a biopsy. Supposedly it hasn't spread yet. Been sick a lot. I go for the second round next week and they haven't said how many times yet. They're going to do radiation twice a day for a month but didn't say when that is going to start. I hope it all works out in the end but who knows. It has completely changed my life just like that. If you smoke, quit, plain and simple. Go to the doctor and get something for anxiety if that's what it takes. If you don't smoke, don't start. And that's all I have to say about cigarettes.

  • PRIT

    so basically, the things that make us unhappy causes us to smoke