Smoking Continues to Decrease Among Adults, But Gaps Remain

Gina Kokosky
Published Online: Monday, January 29th, 2018
Smoking has steadily decline over the past decade among US adults, resulting in a smaller population of adult smokers and less cigarette use among those who do smoke, according to a recently-published CDC report. However, cigarette use has not decline at the same rate among all groups, suggesting that there is more work to be done. 

According to a press release from the CDC, 38 million American adults smoke cigarettes daily or on most days.

While millions of people continue to smoke, this population has decreased from 20.9% to 15.5% since 2005, according to data analyzed from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).

In line with this trend, the amount of patients who have quit smoking has increased from 50.8% in 2005 to 59.0% in 2016, with the age range of 25 to 44 making the most progress.

Those who continue using cigarettes are smoking less, with the average amount of cigarettes per day decreasing from 17 to 14, according to the CDC.

Additionally, the amount of smokers using 20 to 29 cigarettes per day has also decreased, while the percentage of those who smoke less than 10 cigarettes has increased.
The decrease in adult smoking is consistent with data produced since 1965, creating an overall downward trend of cigarette use, the CDC reported.

“The good news is that these data are consistent with the declines in adult cigarette smoking that we’ve seen for several decades,” said Corrine Graffunder, DrPh, director of the CDC Office on Smoking and Health.

Although these trends are promising, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in America, killing more than 480,000 adults every year, according to the release.

It is becoming increasingly important to take steps in reducing cigarette use among adults, particularly in groups where smoking patterns remain consistent.  

“The bad news is that cigarette smoking is not declining at the same rate among all population groups,” said Brian King, PhD, deputy director for research translation in the Office on Smoking and Health.

The NHIS data revealed that smoking rates remain highest among males aged 25 to 64, those with less education, multiracial Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, those under psychological distress, those without health insurance, those who live under the poverty line, members of the LGBTQ+ community, those with disabilities, and residents of the Midwest or South, according to the CDC.

“Addressing these disparities with evidence-based interventions is critical to continue the progress we’ve made in reducing the overall smoking rate,” Dr King said.
The CDC recommends that lawmakers harness proven intervention methods such as raising the price of tobacco products, widespread smoke-free laws, media campaigns against smoking, and increasing access to necessary counseling and medications.

Implementing these strategies is crucial for reducing the rate of death and disease caused by cigarette use among adults, the CDC concluded.


Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults — United States, 2016 [news release]. CDC's website. Accessed January 29, 2018. 

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