Smokers Becoming Few and Far Between (With Notable Exceptions)

New data released yesterday by the CDC shows a significant decline in the number of U.S. smokers.  In fact, the prevalence of cigarette smoking among U.S. adults declined from 20.9 percent to 16.8 percent from 2005 to 2014.  At the same time, the average number of cigarettes smoked per day among daily smokers declined from 16.7 in 2005 to 13.8 in 2014.  This really is remarkable progress, one that nutrition advocates can only hope to achieve with obesity rates one day.

Yet a deeper dive into the CDC release reveal a different story, and one that underscores the health disparities across the country. 

A few of the findings:

American adults who are uninsured or on Medicaid smoke at rates more than double those for adults with private health insurance or Medicare

27.9 percent of uninsured adults and 29.1 percent of Medicaid recipients currently smoke compared to 12.9 percent of adults with private insurance and 12.5 percent of those on Medicare

Smoking rates were also higher for the following groups:

  • Males (18.8 percent vs. 14.8 percent for females)
  • Adults ages 25-44 years (20.0 percent)
  • Multiracial (27.9 percent) or American Indian/Alaska Natives (29.2 percent)
  • People with a General Education Development certificate (43.0 percent)
  • People who live below the federal poverty level (26.3 percent)
  • People who live in the Midwest (20.7 percent)
  • People who have a disability/limitation (21.9 percent)
  • People who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual (23.9 percent)

We should continue to make sure the initiatives established across the U.S. focus not just on the public at-large, but specifically those demographics with smoking rates above the national average.  Interestingly, adults ages 25-44 (those who have certainly grown up knowing that smoking can be deadly) smoke significantly more than those in other age groups.

In general, anti-smoking policies and strategies are having an effect, and are helping us get closer to achieving the national "Healthy People 2020" goal of bringing smoking rates down to 12 percent or less within five years.  We need to keep an eye on e-cigarettes and other devices that may either take the place of cigarettes or lead individuals to start smoking.

This has been a lesson in sustained and effective advocacy and campaigns.  Cigarettes kill, which many seem to have now taken to heart.