Smoking rates among U.S. adults have hit an all-time low, according to new federal data.
Approximately 14% of American adults said they were smokers last year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While that’s still a significant number, encompassing about 34 million Americans, it’s the lowest rate recorded since the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) began collecting data about cigarette use in 1965. Smoking rates have declined by 67% since then, according to the CDC.
Today, men are more likely to use tobacco products than women, according to responses to the NHIS. Older adults are also more likely than younger adults to use tobacco products, the report says: Roughly 22% of adults ages 25 to 44 and 21% of those 45 to 64 reported using a tobacco product, compared to 18.3% of those ages 18 to 24.
Smoking is also on the decline among kids and teenagers. Just 7.6% of high school students and 2.1% of middle school students reported using cigarettes in 2017, according to recent CDC data. That’s down from roughly 16% and 4%, respectively, in 2011.
The waning popularity of cigarettes is a win for public health, since smoking is associated with health risks ranging from lung cancer to heart disease, but the CDC’s report shows that almost a fifth of Americans still use some kind of tobacco product. Cigarettes remain the most popular, followed by cigars (3.8% of Americans), e-cigarettes (2.8%), smokeless tobacco (2.1%) and pipes (1%).
The rise of e-cigarettes, particularly among young people, has some public health experts concerned. E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among both high school and middle school students, according to the CDC. Around 12% of high schoolers vaped in 2017, data shows, compared to about 3% of U.S. adults as of 2016.
The health effects of vaping are not well understood, and some evidence has shown that it may promote other forms of tobacco use among youth. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration has prioritized limiting youth access to e-cigarettes. The products may, however, hold promise for adult smokers trying to quit — but even in this area, the evidence is inconclusive, the CDC notes.