Cigarettes, smoking and good news. They do come together sometimes. A new study shows that the number of people who are deemed heavy smokers — 20 or more a day — has declined significantly across the United States. The message seems to be filtering out and people are understanding the extraordinary risks of smoking more and more. So let’s take a snapshot of smoking in the U.S. courtesy of this bit of health news. And perhaps it will help be a further shove for smokers toward quitting smoking entirely.
From 1965 to 2007, the number of people who smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day declined significantly. And there were decreases in those who smoked 10 or more a day as well. It is detailed in the prestigious journal “JAMA.”
When Americans first began smoking, it was typically a pack a day (20 cigarettes). Since the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health (1964), smoking has been on a decline. At the forefront of this change is the State of California, where public policy led to less smoking and lower lung cancer rates.
Researchers looked at trends in smoking both in California and the U.S. overall using two large surveys with nearly140,000 people. They found that, in 1965, 23% of U.S. adults were high-intensity smokers – and that 56% of all smokers generally had a pack a day. By 2007, the numbers were starkly different. Americans who were heavy smokers totaled 7.2%, representing 40% of all smokers. As for those who smoked 10 cigarettes or more a day, it went from 10.5% in 1965 to 5.4% in 2007.
There was a major decline in moderate/high-intensity smoking through all age categories, again led by California. The rapid decline in the 10-or-more-cigarette-smoking group is consistent with earlier reports that followed the scientific reports that came out showing how bad smoking was to a person’s health.
As expected, the large decline in the prevalence of pack-a-day smoking has been reflected in declines in lung cancer deaths across the country. Over the past 40 years, patterns of smoking have changed dramatically in the U.S. due to fewer people starting the habit and more people quitting it. As it stands today, only a small minority of young Americans are expected to ever smoke 10 or more cigarettes a day.
How far we have come!