Public health advocates and anti-smoking officials are rejoicing at the latest news: Smoking has reached an all-time low in the United States. At present, the smoking rate stands at 17 percent, a decrease from 2013’s 18 percent.
U.S. smoking rates were actually lower earlier in the year, with numbers coming in around 15 percent, before they climbed two percent. Many attribute low numbers in the earlier part of the year to New Year’s resolutions, and officials don’t expect the current number to fluctuate.
Smoking is the largest preventable cause of disease and death in the United States. On average, 480,000 deaths per year can be attributed to cigarette use. These constitute 1/5 of all deaths in the U.S. per year. To put these statistics in even more glaring terms, 41,000 of these deaths are related to secondhand smoke.
The monetary costs of smoking can be easily illustrated in the American health care system. Each year, smoking-related illnesses and issues account for up to $170 billion of medical care. With statistics like this, it’s not hard to see why public health officials are pushing so hard to end the addictive cycle of cigarette use.
The Reasons Behind The Decrease
The recent encouraging numbers come after half a century of anti-smoking campaigns dedicated to educating the public about the inherent dangers of tobacco products and smoking. Since the Surgeon General’s report in 1964 that first illustrated the correlation between health and smoking, 20 million Americans have died due to smoking-related illness. However, the number of deaths have dropped considerably throughout the years, and on the current trajectory stand to become even less. A combined number of factors may have contributed to this promising news.
Many countries have banned the use of smoking in public places, and this trend is very prevalent throughout the U.S. Most public transportation, restaurants, and public spaces have strict no-smoking policies.
The dropping rates may also be in part due to the large number of people switching to e-cigarettes. Retailers like NJOY.com offer alternative e-cig devices that don’t contain the thousands of toxic chemicals found in tobacco-based products. Recent studies have shown these devices to be up to 95 percent safer than cigarettes, and it seems many are quick to trade in traditional cigarettes for this promising technology.
United States officials and health advocates have also used a variety of public campaign tactics to further decrease the prevalence of smoking across the country. High tax rates on cigarettes, public campaigns illustrating the often shocking consequences of smoking, and education campaigns targeted at children are credited to slashing the number of smokers in the country.
There has been less exposure to smoking in media, specifically within the film industry, and an influx of catchy social media campaigns have been utilized in recent years. All of these, along with a variety of other methods, have contributed to the consistently decreasing rate of smokers in the United States.
Some Americans At Higher Risk
Although the overall trend has seen the national average number of smokers dropping, there are groups who report higher incidence of smoking. Multiracial people came in at 26.8 percent, and constituted the highest majority of smokers. Those of Native American ancestry charted at almost 22 percent, and those who identify as LGBT also reported higher smoking rates. Economics seem to be a correlated factor, as over 29 percent of those who smoked reported they were under the poverty level line. Men were also more likely to smoke than women. The high rates for these groups are often in part due to specific targeting by Big Tobacco companies.
The Dangers of Smoking
The reasons to quit smoking are endless. Skin cancer, emphysema, and heart disease are just a few of the deadly consequences related to cigarette use. Smoking can lead to inflamed stomach lining and intestinal issues, may reduce a person’s ability to smell or taste, and heightens the likelihood of blindness. These scary issues don’t even begin to tackle the long list of direct consequences of cigarettes.
How To Quit Smoking
If you’re a smoker and want to quit, there are a wide variety of free apps designed to help you quit smoking available at the click of a button. Websites like smokefree.gov can also lend a helping hand to anyone looking to kick the habit.
While there’s definitely a long way to go before cigarettes are stamped out, it’s become much harder for those who smoke to avoid the facts: It’s a health risk that benefits no one.