CDC Says U.S. Adult Smoking Rates are Plummeting – What’s Happening and Why?

Vaper’s Vortex

November 17, 2015

“The percentage of U.S. adults who smoke cigarettes declined from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 16.8 percent in 2014.”

Five days ago, November 12th, the CDC released a report stating that data from the National Health Information Survey (NHIS) determined that in 2014, the number of U.S. smokers age 18 and over was 16.8%. That represents a full percentage point drop from the 2013 rate of 17.8%.

So what happened? What conclusions can be drawn from this dramatic drop that will be the basis of future efforts to reduce smoking even further? First we’ll examine the CDC’s conclusions. Then we’ll examine an alternative explanation.

CDC Conclusions

A November 12th NBC News article states:

“They’re [federal health officials] not sure of all the reasons why, but credit anti-smoking campaigns, better insurance coverage to help people kick the habit, and tougher laws that make it harder to smoke in a growing number of places.”

The article goes on to quote CDC researchers:

“The percentage of U.S. adults who smoke cigarettes declined from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 16.8 percent in 2014.”

“The researchers say it’s not clear if products such as e-cigarettes are helping people quit. So far, there’s little evidence that they are.”

CDC Director, Thomas Frieden:

“Smoking kills half a million Americans each year and costs more than $300 billion.”

“This report shows real progress helping American smokers quit and that more progress is possible.”

“Last year, smoking rates hit a 50-year low. Now they’re even lower.”

“Significant additional increases in federal and state cigarette taxes can further drive down smoking rates.”

In a Consumer HealthDay article , Brian King, Deputy Director for Research Translation for the CDC expands on the statements of his boss:

“Interventions like increasing the price of tobacco and the passage of comprehensive smoke-free laws at both the state and local levels have made a difference. Mass-media education campaigns led by the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have also contributed to dropping smoking rates.

“But as cigarette smoking falls, other forms of tobacco use are rising. We’re seeing increases in the use of e-cigarettes and hookah use, particularly among American youth.”

“Going forward, we really need to carefully look at how all the different tobacco products are being used, and make sure we’re not simply playing a game of whack-a-mole,”

Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids:

“Our tremendous progress shows that we know how to win the fight against tobacco. Proven solutions must be fully implemented across the nation, including higher tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free laws, well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs that include mass media campaigns, and comprehensive, barrier-free health insurance coverage for smoking cessation treatments.”

“After stalling in the mid-2000s, adult and youth smoking rates began declining again after the federal cigarette tax was increased by 62 cents in 2009. Significant additional increases in federal and state cigarette taxes can further drive down smoking rates.”

So to summarize, the CDC, the CTFK, and other public health organizations attribute the sharp decline in adult smoking rates to:

  • Higher tobacco taxes
  • More and stronger smoke free laws
  • Well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs
  • Mass media campaigns
  • Evidence of any contribution to the decline in smoking as the result of electronic cigarettes is lacking.

An Alternative Explanation

“The percentage of U.S. adults who smoke cigarettes declined from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 16.8 percent in 2014.”

20.9 percent in 2005, 16.8 percent in 2014 – that’s a 4.1% decrease in adult smokers over a ten year period. Smokers declined from 45.1 million in 2005 to 40.0 million in 2014. But when you look just a little closer, you have to wonder why the CDC chose that particular time frame to promote the effectiveness of their efforts.

According to CDC’s published records, in 2005 the adult smoking rate was 20.9%. In 2009, the rate was 20.6%. In that five year period, the decline in smoking was 0.3%. That represents a 1.4% decrease over the five year period (0.3/20.9=1.4%). And in that five year period, electronic cigarettes were not available in any significant quantities. The D.C. Appellate Court decision on the Sotera case was not handed down until January of 2010.

In 2010 the smoking rate dropped from 20.6% to 19.0%. 1.6% in a single year. 2010 was the first year that electronic cigarettes became widely available. In 2014 the smoking rate was 16.8%. In the five year period from 2010 to 2014, smoking declined from 20.6% at the end of 2009, to 16.8% at the end of 2014. That represents an 18.4% decrease over the five year period (3.8/20.6=18.4%).

In other words, for the five year period from 2010 to 2014, the rate of smoking decline in the U.S. was more than thirteen times greater than the rate of decline for the preceding five years. 93% of the total ten year decline in smoking occurred during the second five years. According to the CDC’s NHIS, 2014 smokers were 40 times more likely than never smokers to currently vape (15.9% vs 0.4%). Recent former smokers were 55 times more likely to vape (22.0% vs 0.4%).

Breaking News

Just when we thought the news couldn’t get much better, a report in today’s U.S. News and World report states that, for the first six months of 2015, smoking rates have declined even more. A LOT more.

“The number of American adults who light up has fallen to a new low of just 14.9 percent, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

The CDC says U.S. adult smoking rates are plummeting and they have the data to prove it. We know what’s happening. The question is – do we know why?

We are sincerely interested in your thoughts and comments! Please join the conversation and invite others by sharing this post! Thank you for visiting our site and we hope that you will come back often!

Dave Coggin has a Master’s Degree in business and spent 35 years in corporate America. He is a co-founder and partner in DIYELS. He has spent the last five years actively researching and following the evolution of the e-cigarette industry. He is a strong proponent of e-cigarettes as the most promising option currently known for tobacco harm reduction. He may be contacted directly at

The opinions presented here are exclusively those of the author. Vaper’s Vortex is offered as a service to our customers and followers. Anyone considering e-cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes should seek qualified advice from a medical professional.

7 thoughts on “CDC Says U.S. Adult Smoking Rates are Plummeting – What’s Happening and Why?

  1. Virginia says:

    As a cigarette and cigar smoker for a year and a half, I have only been able to stop buying and smoking cigarettes because I switched to vaping. The fact that smoke isn’t filling the area I vape in makes it one of the biggest reasons I choose to vape. I care about the people around me more than I do myself. However, the fact that vaping doesn’t make me cough and has no negative side effects, makes it an equally important aspect of my reasons, as well. Thank you for helping to save lives.

  2. Luke says:

    Vaping saved me from 17yrs of cigar smoking and vaping has almost pulled my future wife out of a 43yr pit!CDC & FDA are just big SMOKE blowing liers and they know it!

  3. Jeff says:

    I have been smoking for 39 years and I have asthma , one day a friend at work told me where to go to check out some vaping equiptment and there I bought my first starter kit.
    I have been vaping for 2 monthes now and don’t miss the cigs one bit.
    I would like to THANK the vaping industry for helping me quit those nasty things .

  4. rtucker33 says:

    I have been smoking for almost 45 years and never really quit. Its the worst habit anyone can ever take up. Started having vascular problems and the vascular tech checking me out said ” I’m not telling you to vape, but I’m telling to quit smoking and try vaping” So I gave it a shot right before Christmas and havent even wanted a cigarette since. I tried quiting and never did in all those years, and never thought I ever would. Vaping really works to give up cigarettes, this is no bullshit. If you really want to quit cigs, try vaping.

  5. Hasse Karlgreen says:

    Adult’s smoking rate is very high. My friend doing smoking for the last five year. He is never quit the smoking. I have tried to quit his smoking habit. I hope he understand my point of concern and quit the smoking.

  6. pros and cons of smoking hookah says:

    Very helpful and Great information,
    we appreciate advise especially coming from a professional.
    Thanks again and keep up the great work!

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