Following World War II, more than 50 percent of Americans smoked cigarettes before the ramifications of health issues came to the forefront. Since that time, smoking has been on the decline, starting in the late 1960s and accelerating downward in the 1970s.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, America had recently seen a 15-year smoking decline. The decline has been so dramatic that the U.S. smoking rate had moved permanently below 20 percent in 2008, according to the CDC.
But that news was shaken this year as the CDC reported a little under 21 percent of U.S. adults said they smoked. The report said it also is the first increase in adult smoking since 1994.
This news is shocking because more indoor smoking bans are in place all across the country. Also, cigarette taxes have never been higher, and Congress has taken steps to allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco.
Clearly the U.S. has hit a wall in its war against smoking. The trend remains flat, but many fear this slight increase could trigger a problematic rise in the smoking habits of Americans.
Many also hope this rise is only temporary in nature, but the period of sinking numbers has come to an end, and that’s not what officials wanted to see. We do have to ask the question of what percentage of American smokers is acceptable. We must be realistic in this answer since zero percent is not an option as long as smoking is legal. We are not aware of any forthcoming measure to change that status.
If 15 to 20 percent is about as close as you can go to the bottom of expectations then we have just about reached our bottom mark. From there, the numbers could vary by a percentage point either way from year to year. It could be that we have reached that bottoming out stage.
But it could also signal a new rise in American smoking levels. Tobacco companies certainly haven’t stopped advertising and promoting their product. The tobacco industry also has been discounting cigarettes to help offset tax increases.
We would be surprised if the numbers don’t go below 20 percent during the 2010 reporting period. We have been through a recession and the 62-cent federal tax took effect last April. Let’s hope these numbers stabilize at a lower figure than 20 percent.