Cigarette smoking continues to decline in the U.S.

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People cite a number of reasons for their decision to smoke. These can include growing up in a family of tobacco users, the action being a social activity or the “cool” portrayal of cigarettes in television and film. While many continue to smoke despite knowing the related health risks, the number of smokers is declining in the U.S.

An 8.6 million-person difference in adults

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking among adults 18 and older has dropped from 21 percent in 2005 to 15 percent in 2015. This is quite a change over the course of ten years and affects around 8.6 million people across the U.S. While the progress is nationwide, some areas of the country as well as certain demographics have made more substantial alterations than others.
The CDC’s study found that smoking rates in 2015 were higher among:

  • Men
  • Those 25 to 44 years old
  • People who live below the federal poverty line
  • Those that reside in the Midwest
  • People who had serious psychological stress, among many other factors

Furthermore, the percentage of adult smokers dropped 1.7 percent between 2014 and 2015. While these rates continue to decline among those 18 and older, the CDC has also witnessed reduced numbers of teenage smokers as well.

The lowest rate in 24 years for teens

The National Youth Risk Behavior Survey was established in 1991 by the CDC. It’s goal is to monitor six health-risk behaviors that can cause death and disabilities among U.S. citizens. The YRBS looks at tobacco use, unhealthy dietary behaviors, alcohol and other drug use, inadequate physical activity, behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence and sexual behaviors related to unexpected pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

Earlier this year, YRBS released the results of its annual survey. The report found that cigarette use among teens dropped from 28 percent in 1991 to 11 percent in 2015. This is the lowest the figure has been in 24 years – since the organization began in 1991.

While this is good news, public health officials are experiencing an increase in e-cigarette use as a result of the decline in regular cigarette use. The YRBS study also discovered that 24 percent of high school students had using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. Although some people may choose one tobacco method over another, 60 percent of those who vape will also smoke cigarettes, according to NPR.
Public health officials continue to devise ways to lower the rate of people who smoke cigarettes in the U.S. One of their most successful tactics has been incorporating a tax into the purchase of tobacco.

Both federal and state taxes exist

One of the causes for the rapid decline in cigarette smokers in the U.S. in the past decade – and especially between 2014 and 2015 – could be the increasing number of states who are creating a tax on cigarette purchases. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, overall tobacco consumption is reduced when cigarettes cost more. Public health is also greatly improved as a result of increased tobacco expenses.

Currently, the federal government’s excise tax on cigarettes is $1.01 per pack. This $0.62 increase – the former tax rate was $0.39 – was put into effect under the Obama administration’s Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009.
Replicating the federal government’s action, many states have introduced their own cigarette tax. The following states have some of the highest cigarette tax rates in the country, according to Tobacco Free Kids:

  • New York: $4.35
  • Connecticut: $3.90
  • Rhode Island: $3.75
  • Massachusetts: $3.51
  • Hawaii: $3.20
  • Vermont: $3.08
  • Washington: $3.025
  • Minnesota: $3.00

The state with the lowest cigarette tax is Missouri at $0.17 per pack.

As a public health professional, it’s likely that you will examine the effects and implications of tobacco usage and cigarette smoking at large.  The online Master of Public Health program offered at The University of Arizona’s Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health will arm you with the insights and perspective needed to examine hot-button issues like this as you advance in your public health career. Visit our site to learn more about our program and how it can benefit you.