Adult Smoking Hits Record Low

Nearly 20% of U.S. adults regularly use tobacco products and 13.7% smoke cigarettes.

November 18, 2019

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—In 2018, an estimated 34.2 million U.S. adults, or 13.7% of the adult population, smoked cigarettes regularly, reports U.S. News.

The government began tracking tobacco use in 1965 when more than 40% of American adults smoked. Since then, smoking rates have been falling, yet smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., according to the newest report from the Centers for Disease Control.

"This marked decline in cigarette smoking is the achievement of a consistent and coordinated effort by the public health community and our many partners," said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC.

Yet the new report also notes "no significant change" in smoking prevalence from 2017 to 2018, and public health advocates say the progress has been uneven. People with disabilities and serious psychological issues, Native populations and adults with lower incomes or education levels were more likely to be cigarette smokers last year, the CDC estimates. Still, there are more former smokers than current smokers today, and more than 55% of cigarette smokers tried to quit in the past year. That figure is up from 52.8% in 2009.

Overall, an estimated 49.1 million, or 19.7%, of U.S. adults regularly used tobacco products in 2018. Cigars, cigarillos or filtered little cigars were the most popular choices after cigarettes, followed by e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and pipes, water pipes or hookahs, the study shows. Current use remained relatively level for most of these categories between 2017 and 2018.

The share of adults who used e-cigarettes, however, rose from 2.8% to 3.2% between 2017 and 2018, after a downward trend from 2014 to 2017. Use of the devices was highest among young adults ages 18 to 24, increasing from 5.2% in 2017 to 7.6% last year.

The uptick among youth and a rash of vaping-linked illnesses that appear largely tied to the marijuana compound THC have prompted regulatory action at the state and federal levels. President Donald Trump is expected to announce a ban on e-cigarette flavors and an increased age limit for purchasing the products.

Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services and acting commissioner of the FDA has stated, "We remain dedicated to keeping pace with the evolving tobacco product landscape to ensure strong regulatory oversight in light of the increases in youth use of e-cigarette products in the U.S."