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Cigarette Smoking at Record Low Among American Adults

The percentage of American cigarette smokers in 2017 hit 14%, its lowest point since the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) first started tracking smoking statistics in 1965. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) report this represents a 67% decline from 1965 and a 1.5% decline from 2016. The survey results appear in the November 9 issue of the CDC publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Despite the progress, 34.3 million adults in the US still smoked cigarettes in 2017 and 47.4 million people used some type of tobacco product. Cigarette smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the US. An estimated 480,000 American adults die from cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke exposure every year.

"This all-time low in cigarette smoking among US adults is a tremendous public health accomplishment – and it demonstrates the importance of continued proven strategies to reduce smoking," said CDC director Robert Redfield, MD, in a statement.

He added that despite the progress, work is needed to further reduce tobacco use, especially among certain groups of Americans. Use of any tobacco product was highest among people with a General Education Development (GED) certificate (42.6%), those with a history of serious psychological distress (40.8%), and the uninsured (31%).

Other key findings

  • Use of any tobacco product was slightly lower among black adults in the US (20.1%) than white adults (21.4%), and use was significantly lower among Hispanics (12.7%) and Asians (8.9%).
  • Use of any tobacco product was highest in the Midwest (23.5%), followed by the South (20.8%), the West (15.9%), and the Northeast (15.6%).
  • Use of any tobacco product was higher among lesbian, gay, or bisexual adults (27.3%) than straight adults (19.0%).
  • Use of any tobacco product was highest among people with a household income below $35,000 (26%).
  • Only 2.8% of adults reported current use of electronic cigarettes. Other national surveys have shown e-cigarette use to be much higher among teens – 16.2% among high school seniors.

Some factors mentioned in the report that could have an effect on the findings include that people taking the survey had to remember their amount of tobacco use over time and that only 53% of those asked to participate in the survey actually did.

If you’re ready to quit

The American Cancer Society can help if you're ready to quit smoking or know someone who is. See our guide to quitting smoking or call us at 1-800-227-2345. You don’t need to do it alone – getting help increases your chances of success.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Tobacco Product Use Among Adults--United States, 2017. Published November 9, 2018 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. First author Teresa W. Wang, PhD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga.