Nov. 8 2012
WASHINGTON, DC – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today that the adult smoking rate in the United States continues to decline slowly, falling to a record low of 19 percent in 2011 from 19.3 percent in 2010 and 20.9 percent in 2005.
The CDC survey found that the largest decline in smoking from 2005 to 2011 occurred among young adults aged 18-24, with smoking rates falling from 24.4 percent to 18.9 percent (a 22.5 percent decline). This augurs well for future declines in adult smoking and shows that the large decline in youth smoking is now showing up among young adults. Smoking among high school students has been cut by more than half since peaking in 1997 (declining from 36.4 percent in 1997 to 18.1 percent in 2011). The U.S. Surgeon General has found that nearly 90 percent of smokers start by age 18 and almost no one starts smoking after age 25, so these large reductions in youth and young adult smoking offer promise of greater adult smoking declines in the future.
While it is good news that smoking continues to decline, there is an urgent need to accelerate progress against the nation’s number one cause of preventable death. It is unacceptable that 43.8 million American adults still smoke and some 443,000 Americans still die every year from smoking-related diseases.
This survey is another reminder to elected officials that the nation’s battle against tobacco use is far from over and must remain a national priority. We know how to make greater progress by implementing proven strategies, including higher tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free air laws, well-funded programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, hard-hitting media campaigns and effective regulation of tobacco products and marketing. To win the fight against tobacco, we need a strong and sustained commitment by all levels of government to implement these life-saving solutions.
The Obama Administration in its first term has worked to reinvigorate the fight against tobacco and must build on these accomplishments in its second term. The Administration’s actions have had significant impact. When the federal cigarette tax was increased by 62 cents per pack in 2009, cigarette sales that year fell by nearly 10 percent, one of the largest declines on record. Earlier this year, the CDC conducted an unprecedented media campaign that spurred hundreds of thousands of smokers to seek help from stop-smoking telephone quitlines and websites. President Obama also signed the landmark law granting the Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products and the health care reform law, which expanded coverage for tobacco cessation treatments and provided dedicated funding for disease prevention initiatives such as tobacco prevention and cessation.
The Administration’s priorities in a second term should include effective implementation of the FDA’s new authority, ensuring that insurers provide the cessation coverage required by the health reform law, providing strong support for the prevention fund and expanding the CDC’s media campaign.
It is critical that the states also step up their efforts, which have lagged in recent years. The states must restore funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs that have been slashed by 36 percent ($260.5 million) in the past four years. The states collect more than $25 billion a year from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but have been spending less than two percent of it to fight tobacco use. This is shameful and must improve. States must also step up the pace in enacting tobacco tax increases and smoke-free laws.
The CDC survey includes evidence that the nation may be poised for greater reductions in the smoking rate. In addition to the declines in young adult smoking, it finds that those who continue to smoke are smoking less. It also finds that, among current smokers and those who had quit during the preceding year, 51.8 percent made a quit attempt for greater than one day during the preceding year. By motivating and supporting these smokers and providing them with barrier-free access to smoking cessation treatments, public policies can help more smokers quit for good.
The CDC report can be found at www.cdc.gov/mmwr.
CDC Report: Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults — United States, 2011 (Nov. 9, 2012)