While overall cigarette smoking among U.S. adults declined from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 15.5 percent in 2016, new data recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that nearly 38 million adults said they smoked cigarettes every day or some days in 2016.
The new data — provided by the National Health Interview — shows that among adults who have ever used cigarettes, the percentage who have quit increased from 50.8 percent in 2005 to 59 percent in 2016. From 2005-16, the largest increase in quitting was among adults ages 25-44 years.
“The good news is that these data are consistent with the declines in adult cigarette smoking that we’ve seen for several decades,” said Corinne Graffunder, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “These findings also show that more people are quitting, and those who continue to smoke are smoking less.”
Since 1965, the NHIS has tracked cigarette smoking, the most common form of tobacco product use among U.S. adults. The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that the burden of death and disease from tobacco use in the United States is overwhelmingly caused by cigarettes and other combustive tobacco products.
Carl Horton, a cardiologist at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Cleburne, said besides diet and exercise, quitting smoking is the most beneficial thing a person can do for their body.
“If you are a heavy smoker — if cancer doesn’t get you, then a heart attack or a stoke or [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] will,” he said. “When you stop smoking your risk for heart attack immediately decreases and your chance for having cardio disease, malignancies or cancer in the future also significantly decreases.”
Among daily smokers, the average number of cigarettes smoked per day declined from about 17 cigarettes in 2005 to 14 cigarettes in 2016. The proportion of daily smokers who smoked 20 to 29 cigarettes per day dropped from 34.9 percent in 2005 to 28.4 percent in 2016, while the proportion who smoked fewer than 10 cigarettes per day rose from 16.4 percent in 2005 to 25 percent in 2016.
Horton said aside from having a heart attack, the reason some smokers choose to quit is because of the availability of alternative methods.
“Those other alternative methods, such as e-cigarettes or vapes — I counsel my patients not to do that,” he said. “You might not be smoking, but you are still putting those harmful toxins in your body.”
Persistent disparities in cigarette smoking
Despite this progress, disparities in smoking persist across population groups. Cigarette smoking was especially high among males, those aged 25-64 years, people who had less education, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Americans of multiple races, those who had serious psychological distress, those who were uninsured or insured through Medicaid, those living below the poverty level, those who had a disability, those who were lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and those who lived in the Midwest or South.
Horton said he’s worked in Cleburne for two years and has seen more lung cancer patients than anywhere else he’s worked.
“There are some long-term heavy smokers here in Cleburne,” he said.
The bad news, said Brian King, deputy director for research translation in CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, is that cigarette smoking is not declining at the same rate among all population group.
“Addressing these disparities with evidence-based interventions is critical to continue the progress we’ve made in reducing the overall smoking rate,” he said.