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If you’ve noticed fewer and fewer cigarette butts squished on the sidewalks in the past few years, you’re not mistaken. Cigarette use among Americans has reached at an all-time low since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started tracking the figure in 1965, amounting to just 14 percent of the adult population, according to a recent report from the agency.
As part of the annual National Health Interview Survey, nearly 27,000 adults reported their current tobacco habits in 2017, and the results showed the continued steady decline of smoking over the last few decades. At the start of the new millennium, more than 23 percent of U.S. adults smoked, and in 2006, this proportion decreased to 20.8 percent. The number of 18 to 24-year-olds who smoked cigarettes every day or some days in the month leading up to the survey also decreased from 13 percent in 2016 to 10 percent the following year.
This historic 67 percent decline can be credited to initiatives like increased tobacco prices, consumer education on the dangers of smoking, and new efforts to help people quit, says Brian King, a deputy director in the CDC's office on smoking and health. Many of these measures have been carried out in New York, which has the highest cigarette tax in the country, topping out at $4.35 per pack, almost $3 more than the national average. The state has implemented clean indoor air ordinances that ban smoking in private workplaces, schools, restaurants, and bars. The Empire State also invested 16 cents more per smoker than the national average in its quitline, and in 2016, only 14.2 percent of its adult population smoked cigarettes.
Still, about 47.4 million Americans, almost one-fifth of the population, used a tobacco product last year, including cigars (3.8 percent), e-cigarettes (2.8 percent), smokeless tobacco (2.1 percent), and pipes or hookahs (1 percent), which don’t come without health risks. There are at least 30 chemicals known to cause cancer in smokeless tobacco. Smokers who switch to chewing tobacco, snuff, or dissolvables rather than entirely quitting face an increased risk of mouth, esophagus, and pancreas cancer and worsening blood pressure. No matter the type of tobacco product, quitting requires passing over mental, physical, and emotional hurdles. To first start the long battle in overcoming a tobacco addiction, the American Cancer Society recommends setting a Quit Day, gradually cutting down on the number of times you dip or chew each day to slowly reduce the amount of nicotine in your body, and considering counseling and other types of emotional support, which have been shown to help people stay tobacco-free.
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