More Americans Dropping the Habit

Smoking rates among US adults continue to drop

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The risks of smoking are well established, but that doesn't mean it's easier to quit the habit. Yet, more Americans are skipping the smokes these days.

A recent report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that smoking rates have continued to drop among US adults.

Fewer adults were smoking in 2012 than in 2005, and daily smokers were smoking fewer cigarettes each day.

Furthermore, rates of quitting smoking have increased since 2005.

"Seek help to quit smoking."

This report, authored by Israel T. Agaku, DMD, of the Office on Smoking and Health at the CDC, and colleagues, reported on rates of smoking among US adults between 2005 and 2012.

The data came from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, involving 34,525 adults, aged 18 and older, who represented national demographics.

The authors reported that the number of current smokers in the US dropped to 18.1 percent (or about 42.1 million people in 2012), down from 20.9 percent in 2005.

A current smoker was defined as someone who had smoked at least 100 cigarettes during their lifetime and were still smoking at least once a day or several days each week.

Among those who were current smokers, about 78 percent smoked daily and 22 percent smoked on some days.

However, even regular current smokers appeared to be smoking less. Daily smokers had an average 14.6 cigarettes per day in 2012, compared to 16.7 cigarettes per day in 2005.

In addition, more smokers appeared to be quitting, based on the survey findings.

The number of individuals who had ever smoked and then quit increased from 50.7 percent in 2005 to 55 percent in 2012.

Former smokers were defined as those who had smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetimes but no longer smoked at all.

The researchers also found a drop in the number of smokers who smoked at least 30 cigarettes a day.

While 12.6 percent of smokers had 30 cigarettes or more per day in 2005, that number had dropped to 7 percent by 2012.

The researchers attributed the improvements in smoking rates and quitting rates to a variety of factors.

"Proven population-level interventions, including tobacco price increases, high-impact anti-tobacco mass media campaigns, comprehensive smoke-free laws and barrier-free access to help quitting, are critical to decreasing cigarette smoking and reducing the health and economic burden of tobacco-related diseases in the United States," they wrote.

These researchers identified a few trends regarding smokers. Men were more likely than women to be current smokers (20.5 percent of men in 2012, compared to 15.8 percent of women).

Smoking rates were lowest among those with higher educations: only 5.9 percent of those with a graduate degree smoked, and 9.1 percent of those with an undergraduate degree did.

In addition, just over a quarter of those living below the poverty level (27.9 percent) were current smokers, compared to 17 percent of those living above the poverty level.

"The decline in overall smoking prevalence from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 18.1 percent in 2012 is encouraging and likely reflects the success of tobacco control efforts across the country," wrote the authors in an accompanying editorial note.

This report was published January 16 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The research was funded by the CDC. The authors had no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 16, 2014
Last Updated:
January 18, 2014