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1 in 5 Americans Still Using Tobacco

by Amanda Z. Naprawa  

Tobacco use has declined sharply in the United States since the 1960s—but it’s still too high, according to a new report from the CDC, which found that one in five Americans continue to report using tobacco products.

This latest report on tobacco use was based on data from the National Health Interview Survey, a nationwide survey by the CDC on a broad range of health topics conducted through personal household interviews. (Previous tobacco use reports relied on data from the National Adult Tobacco Survey, a telephone-based survey that was retired in 2014.) Of 33,672 adults interviewed in 2015, about 20 percent reported using some form of tobacco product every day or almost every day during that year. Of them, about three-quarters reported smoking cigarettes; e-cigarettes were the next most commonly used product, followed by smokeless tobacco.

Men reported significantly higher rates of use of any tobacco product than women. Other factors associated with higher rates of smoking included being under age 65, living in the Midwest, having an annual household income of less than $35,000, having lower education, being uninsured or on Medicaid, and identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Individuals reporting serious psychological distress were also significantly more likely to report tobacco use (48 percent) compared with those who did not experience psychological distress (19 percent).

The findings are concerning, since smoking is the leading cause of preventable deathin the U.S. Each year 480,000 Americans die from causes related to smoking (including exposure to secondhand smoke). Overall mortality among men and women who smoke is three times higherthan that of people who never smoked, and their life expectancy is 10 years less than that of non-smokers. Smoking not only causes lung cancer but also increases the risk of death fromother cancers, coronary heart disease, emphysema, and diabetes. Secondhand smokealso contributes to many of those problems and can be especially dangerous for infants and children, in whom it’s associated with more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory and ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The CDC recommends comprehensive tobacco control programs to reduce tobacco use, as well as targeted programs aimed at the subpopulations with the greatest burden of use (as listed above).

Also see Even a Cigarette a Day Is Risky.