How many Americans smoke?
The agency generally publicizes cherry-picked data on surveys to emphasize its mission to eradicate tobacco (e.g., e-cigarette use by teens, here), but it hasn’t commented on smoking rates. In this column, I offer smoking prevalence estimates from the 2014 NHIS.
The chart below shows the prevalence of current smoking among adults in 2005, 2010 and 2014. The CDC previously reported on smoking trends from 2005 to 2010, so we can compare that period with 2010 to 2014, during which time e-cigarettes gained traction in the United States.
Among men, smoking declined about 10 percent from 2005 to 2010, and about 12.5 percent during the latter four years (the diagonal bars in the chart). The earlier decline among women was modest (4.4 percent), but the drop from 2010 to 2014 was an impressive 14.5 percent.
The prevalence of former smoking was relatively stable for men and women in all years, which belies the notion that e-cigarettes created a surge in quitting. The declines in current smoking are likely a reflection of the increasing percentage of Americans who have never smoked and the long decline in teenage smoking.
In summary, in 2014, the number of Americans who smoke dropped below 40 million for the first time in the 50 years that the NHIS has provided smoking statistics. The number of former smokers in 2014 was 52.2 million.
These numbers do not support the claim of tobacco prohibitionists that e-cigarettes are “re-normalizing” smoking. Rather, the decline in smoking continues.