News | Lifestyle: Cigarette smoking rates are plunging in the US, but there's a major catch

Lifestyle: Cigarette smoking rates are plunging in the US, but there's a major catch

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  • Cigarette smoking rates have reached the lowest levels ever recorded among US adults.
  • But despite the drop in cigarette use, 1 in 5 US adults still use tobacco products.
  • This, according to the report, is likely due to the increase in tobacco-use products on the market, including e-cigarettes like the Juul.


Cigarette smoking has reached a record low in the United States, but we shouldn't be celebrating just yet.

According to pooled data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute (NCI), an estimated 14% of US adults identified as current cigarette smokers in 2017. This a slight decrease from the 15.5% rate in 2016, but a significant drop from the 45% of smokers in 1956, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

"This new all-time low in cigarette smoking among U.S. adults is a tremendous public health accomplishment – and it demonstrates the importance of continued proven strategies to reduce smoking," CDC director Robert Redfield said in a statement released Thursday.

Though this is certainly significant news — cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, according to the CDC — Americans are not completely in the clear. As the new data notes, 1 in 5 US adults still use tobacco products.

As Redfield noted, "Work remains to reduce the harmful health effects of tobacco use."

The popularity of e-cigarettes like the Juul contributes to the numbers

According to the report, e-cigarettes are the third most popular tobacco products among US adults, with 2.8% using them daily (cigarettes are the most popular at 14%, and cigars are second). Although that may not seem like a lot, their popularity doesn't show signs of slowing down.

Sales of e-cigarettes — particularly the Juul brand — are skyrocketing. As of July, Juul Labs is valued at $15 million.

Read more: Vaping every day could double your risk of a heart attack, new research suggests

Additionally, more teens and young adults are using e-cigarettes daily. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that nearly 40% of eight to 12th graders surveyed report using e-cigarettes, compared to the 21% who report using cigarettes. As these youths move into the adult category, the numbers are sure to rise.

E-cigarettes pose dangerous health risks

The limited evidence available suggests that while inhaling vapor is healthier than breathing in burned tobacco, e-cigs also come with major health concerns.

Chief among those issues is e-cigs' high concentration of nicotine, as Business Insider's Erin Brodwin points out.

E-cigarettes can also expose users to harmful chemicals like carbonyl compounds and volatile organic compounds.

The products can also serve as a gateway for other tobacco products and addictive drugs. This may be why teens who vape are seven times more likely to smoke regular cigarettes than those who don't use e-cigs.

Coordinated efforts are being made to reduce tobacco use across the board

For now, the CDC, FDA, and NIH are pushing a "full implementation of comprehensive tobacco control programs at the national, state, and local levels," in an effort to reduce not only tobacco use, but also tobacco-related deaths across the country.

"We've taken new steps to ultimately render combustible cigarettes minimally or non-addictive and to advance a framework to encourage innovation of potentially less harmful products such as e-cigarettes for adults who still seek access to nicotine, as well as support the development of novel nicotine replacement drug therapies," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in the statement. "At the same time we're also working to protect kids from the dangers of tobacco product use, including e-cigarettes."

Visit INSIDER's homepage for more.

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