Smoking Rates In U.S. Hit All-Time Low, CDC Says

NEW YORK (CBS Local/CBS News) – Smoking in the U.S. has hit another all-time low.

About 14 percent of U.S adults admit to being smokers last year, down from about 16 percent in 2016, government figures from the CDC show.

There hadn’t been much change the previous two years, but it’s been clear there’s been a general decline and the new figures show it’s continuing, according to K. Michael Cummings of the tobacco research program at Medical University of South Carolina.

“Everything is pointed in the right direction,” including falling cigarette sales and other indicators, Cummings said.

The new figures released Tuesday equate to more than 30 million adults still smoking in the U.S.

Teens were also found to be less interested in trying cigarettes. Survey results out last week showed smoking among high school students was down to nine percent, also a new low.

In the early 1960s, roughly 42 percent of U.S. adults smoked. It was common nearly everywhere – in office buildings, restaurants, airplanes and even hospitals. The decline has coincided with a greater understanding that smoking is a cause of cancer, heart disease, and other health problems.

Experts believe anti-smoking campaigns, cigarette taxes, and bans on smoking in public places are combining to bring down adult smoking rates. The CDC adds that people in large metropolitan areas smoked significantly less than people who live in rural areas.

The launch of electronic cigarettes and their growing popularity has also likely played a role. E-cigarettes heat liquid nicotine into a vapor without the harmful by-products generated from burning tobacco. That makes them a potentially useful tool to help smokers quit, but some public health experts worry it also creates a new way for people to get addicted to nicotine.

There was no new information for adult use of e-cigarettes and vaping products, but 2016 figures estimate that three percent of adults are using e-cigarettes.

Vaping is more common among teens than adults. About 13 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes or other vaping devices.