U.S. cigarette smoking dropped to another all-time low last year, with 1 in 9 adults saying they were current smokers, according to government survey data released Thursday. Meanwhile, electronic cigarette use rose, to about 1 in 17 adults.
The preliminary findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are based on survey responses from more than 27,000 adults.
Cigarette smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer, heart disease and stroke, and it's long been considered the leading cause of preventable death.
In the mid-1960s, 42% of U.S. adults were smokers. The rate has been gradually dropping for decades, due to cigarette taxes, tobacco product price hikes, smoking bans and changes in the social acceptability of lighting up in public.
Last year, the percentage of adult smokers dropped to about 11%, down from about 12.5% in 2020 and 2021. The survey findings sometimes are revised after further analysis, and CDC is expected to release final 2021 data soon.
E-cigarette use rose to nearly 6% last year, from about 4.5% the year before, according to survey data.
The rise in e-cigarette use concerns Dr. Jonathan Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health. Nicotine addiction has its own health implications, including risk of high blood pressure and a narrowing of the arteries, according to the American Heart Association.
“I think that smoking will continue to ebb downwards, but whether the prevalence of nicotine addiction will drop, given the rise of electronic products, is not clear,” said Samet, who has been a contributing author to U.S. Surgeon General reports on smoking and health for almost four decades.
Smoking and vaping rates are almost reversed for teens. Only about 2% of high school students were smoking traditional cigarettes last year, but about 14% were using e-cigarettes, according to other CDC data.