Fewer Americans Than Ever Are Smokers

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Nearly half of adult Americans smoked in the 1960s. Since then the percentage of current smokers has declined to a new all-time low of 13.9% in 2017.

And no, it’s not due to vaping. At least not among American adults. According to a 2016 report, only 3% of U.S. adults use e-cigarettes and vaping products, compared with about 13% of high-school age children.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the new numbers Tuesday based on data gathered from the National Health Interview Survey. The survey defines current cigarette smokers as those who had smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and now smoke every day or some days.

Perhaps the most interesting data point is that the drop in smoking that happened in 2017 followed a year when the number of adult smokers actually increased. In 2015 some 15.1% of U.S. adults were smokers, and that total rose to 15.8% in 2016.

More women (68.3%) than men (58.5%) have never smoked. Among current smokers, 15.8% are men and 12.2% are women. More men (25.7%) than women (19.5%) have quit smoking.

Looking at smoking based on both sex and age, the largest percentage (16.4%) of smokers are 45 to 64 years old. In that range, 17.3% are men and 15.6% are women.

By race and ethnicity, smoking was most prevalent among non-Hispanic whites (15.7%) followed by non-Hispanic blacks (15.1%) and Hispanics (9.7%).

The survey also calculated the prevalence of smoking by metropolitan statistical area (MSA). Americans who live outside any MSA have the highest percentage of smokers (21.5%). Large MSAs (more than 1 million population) have the lowest percentage (11.4%) and those in small MSAs (less than 1 million population) fell in between (15.6%).