The Centers for Disease Control announced today that the adult smoking rate has dropped, continuing a six-year downward trend. According to the National Health Interview Survey, the current adult smoking rate is now 15.2 percent, down from 16.8 percent in 2014.
The national smoking rate peaked in 1965, when about 42 percent of adults were smokers. The CDC noted yearly drops in the smoking rate around the turn of the century, a period of intense attention on the tobacco industry’s practices of targeting youth and misleading the public about the risks of smoking. From 2004-2008, the smoking rate was relatively stable at around 20 percent, prompting concerns that a core group of smokers would find it more difficult to quit. After six straight years of significant declines in the smoking rate, however, it appears that innovative policies such as tax increases and clean indoor air laws have had significant impact.
While the recent survey is extremely promising, the overall decrease in smoking does not apply equally to all populations. According to the CDC data, adult men are more likely to be current or former smokers, and black adults are more likely to be smokers than Hispanic and non-Hispanic white adults. The tobacco industry specifically targets people of color, the LGBTQ community, people with mental illnesses, youth, and other populations known to smoke at higher rates.
Minnesota has historically enjoyed a lower rate of adult tobacco use than the national average, thanks to our leadership on tobacco prevention. The 2014 Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey (MATS) showed that 14.4 percent of adults were current smokers. The 2010 MATS survey found that 16.1 percent of adults were current smokers. About 60 percent of smokers cited the 2013 state cigarette tax as a factor in quitting. Increasing the age to purchase or restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products are examples of other innovative policies that can reduce the smoking rate.