On Thursday CDC released its final 2016 data on adult cigarette smoking and it shows no change in smoking prevalence from the year before. Based on data collected for the National Health Interview Survey, smoking rates among adults in 2016 was 15.5% percent, compared to 15.1 % in 2015. This translates into nearly 38 million adults still smoking, compared to an estimated 36.5 million in 2015. While public health programs have managed to reduce smoking prevalence by over 60% since the time of the first Surgeon Generals report in 1964, due to population increases the absolute number of adult smokers in the US has declined by less than 25%.

Decline in adult prevalence and number of smokers 1965-2016

The NTRI has called for renewed action to reignite the nation’s tobacco control effort to reduce the number of current adult smokers in the U.S. by at least 15 million by the year 2024. In order to achieve this, it will be necessary to reduce adult smoking to 10% or less by that date. Unless we can significantly reduce the absolute number of smokers in society, the man-made epidemic caused by cigarette smoking will continue, unabated, for decades to come. And 480,000 of our fellow citizens will die prematurely each year due to cancer, heart and blood vessel diseases, and chronic respiratory diseases.

The NTRI recommends three priority actions that can significantly reduce the public health burden caused by cigarette smoking:

  1. Increase excise taxes at the federal level and in many states with four (4) goals: lower adult smoking rates, harmonize taxes across state borders to reduce illicit trade, cover the costs of smoking-related disease, and encourage a shift from cigarettes to reduced-risk products and complete cessation;
  2. Encourage health and life insurers, employers and health professionals to actively promote smoking cessation measures supported by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the 2014 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report;
  3. Establish a more rational tobacco, nicotine and alternative products regulatory framework based on their relative risks, and that is adaptable to the increased speed of innovation in new technology development.