Smoking Cessation Is Slowing In America
November 9, 2012

Fewer People Are Quitting Cigarettes, But Progress Has Slowed

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Humans have been smoking tobacco and other substances for centuries, likely as soon as one person sorted out how to do it. For the majority of the 20th century, smoking was seen as cool, even sophisticated. Since then, doctors and researchers have repeatedly uncovered just how bad smoking can be to our health. As a result, numerous programs have been formed to stop adults and teenagers alike from smoking. Governments have even gotten involved, placing high taxes on cigarettes and sometimes very large and gruesome warnings about the health risks involved.

As an attempt to gauge the progress of these efforts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a report detailing how many Americans smoke, how often they smoke and what could be done to turn these adults into quitters.

The CDC report begins with the frightening and all-too-familiar statistics: 443,000 American adults die each year from smoking-related illnesses, while those who smoke run up a $96 billion tab for the United States health care industry. It´s also estimated that $97 billion is burned every year in “lost productivity,” or frequent smoke breaks.

To compile this report, the CDC looked at information gathered from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). According to these results, the number of American smokers is dropping, but only just so. For instance, the CDC claims that smoking dropped from 20.9% to 19.3% from 2005 to 2011. Since last year, this rate has slowed even more, with a full 19% of Americans claiming they smoke.

"We are making some progress, but the progress is slower than we need to see given how important the effect of smoking is on our nations' health," said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, speaking to

The largest decline in smoking came from the younger set, ages 18 to 24. According to the CDC report, smoking for this age group fell from 24% to 19%.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said this was good news and could mean fewer adults will become smokers.

"The US Surgeon General has found that nearly 90 percent of smokers start by age 18 and almost no one starts smoking after age 25, so these large reductions in youth and young adult smoking offer promise of greater adult smoking declines in the future,” said Myers, speaking to

The report has also found that the number of those with a serious smoking habit (30 or more cigarettes a day) has dropped  since 2005, from 13% to 9%.

While these heavy smokers are declining, the number of more casual smokers, (1 to 9 smokes a day) has increased from 16% to 22%.

McAfee says this number could be the response to higher prices and taxes on tobacco. This could also be proof that smokers who once had 30 or more a day have cut back to 9 or less.

The notion that simply cutting back is as good as quitting is dangerous, says McAfee.

"Smoking fewer cigarettes is not a substitute for quitting," he said. "If you go from smoking 20 cigarettes to 10 you aren't cutting your risk in half."

McAfee also has a final warning for those smokers who aren´t yet ready to quit: "If you smoke, you are losing over a decade of life on average.”

“For every smoker who dies there are 20 more smokers still alive with a serious chronic condition, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease or ... cancer."