Smoking is in decline

Here’s some good news on the public health front: The percentage of American adults who smoke cigarettes has hit a record low.

The national health survey conducted last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pegged the number of smokers at 42.1 million, or 17.8 percent of U.S. adults. That’s the lowest percentage of adult smokers since the CDC launched the annual survey in 1965.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services hopes to see the percent of adult smokers drop to 12 percent by 2020. There’s a long way to go to reach that goal, but the country is headed in the right direction.

One of the keys is to continue education programs that discourage teens from picking up the smoking habit. In addition, smoking cessation efforts should be focused more on groups that have a higher percentage of smokers, including people who identify themselves as multiracial, Native Americans, low income adults and LGBT populations.

The number of smokers is dropping, but tobacco use remains the leading cause of premature deaths in the country, about 480,000 per year.

Another encouraging sign: cigarette smokers are cutting back on how often they light up each day – 14.2 times daily, compared to 16.7 time per day in 2007. The percent of daily smokers has also dropped from 80.8 percent in 2005 to 76.9 percent a year ago.