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Cigarette smoking ticks up slightly, but remains below historic highs


Gallup poll indicates use and perception of harm of e-cigarettes and marijuana as well.

doctor with broken cigarette smoking: © Visualmind - stock.adobe.com

© Visualmind - stock.adobe.com

Cigarette smoking rates had a blip upward this year, but remained far below record highs of the last 80 years.

A Gallup well-being poll found 12% of American adults smoked cigarettes in the past week. That figure is up slightly from 11% in 2022, but below the record high of 45% in 1954.

Despite occasional upticks, the cigarette smoking rate has been trending down since the 1950s, according to Gallup data. The research company this month published its most recent findings in “U.S. Cigarette Smoking Rate Steady Near Historical Low,” by Jeffrey M. Jones.

Deaths add up

Gallup’s national figure for adult cigarette smokers paralleled statistics published earlier this year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The centers estimated 11.5% of Americans aged 18 years or older smoked cigarettes.

That tallies up to about 28.3 million adults, and more than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease. CDC note the current cigarette smoking rate has declined from 20.9% in 2005, when Gallup polls found the adult cigarette smoking rate to be 25%.

If your patients need a reminder of just how bad smoking is for their health, the American Lung Association (ALA) states smoking-related diseases claim more than 480,000 lives a year. That’s more than 11 times the 42,795 Americans who died in traffic crashes last year, as logged by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Apart from the human losses, ALA estimated smoking-related diseases cost the nation at least $151 billion a year in lost productivity and $130 billion in direct health care expenses.

Youth movement

It appears there’s a youth movement to avoid cigarettes. In the 2001 to 2003 period, 35% of young adults said they smoked cigarettes, but that has dropped to 10% for the time since 2019, according to Gallup.

Current smokers also are puffing less, with 71% of smokers saying they consume less than a pack of cigarettes a day, the Gallup poll said

Nationally, 8% of adults use e-cigarettes, but vaping is more popular among young adults, with 18% of people aged 18 to 29 years using e-cigarettes. Young adults also are using more marijuana than cigarettes or e-cigarettes – 27% have said they smoke marijuana, according to the Gallup data.

They also see vaping and marijuana as safer alternatives to cigarettes. A 76% of adults view cigarette smoking as “very harmful,” but 54% see vaping as “very harmful,” and just 23% say marijuana is “very harmful” to health, according to Gallup.

“The fact that Americans generally view cigarettes as the most harmful of the three suggests that public health efforts to discourage cigarette smoking have been getting through,” the Gallup study said.

Sources to help patients

If your patients need help quitting, ALA notes “there are seven medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to aid in quitting smoking.” Nicotine patches, gum, and lozenges are available over the counter, and a nicotine nasal spray and inhaler are currently available by prescription. Bupropion SR (Zyban) and varenicline are non-nicotine pills used in smoking cessation, according to ALA.

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