Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Adult cigarette smoking fell to all-time low in first year of pandemic

Person smoking cigarette.
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Story at a glance

  • The number of U.S. adults who smoke cigarettes dropped to an all-time low in 2020.
  • Among U.S. adults who smoked daily, those who smoked 20–29 cigarettes per day decreased from 34.9 percent in 2005 to 27.9 percent in 2020.
  • However, a large number of U.S. adults still smoke cigarettes, approximately 30.8 million adults, despite the recent declines.

The number of U.S. adults who smoke cigarettes hit an all-time low in 2020. 

“We have made significant progress in preventing and reducing tobacco product use in this country by using proven strategies and implementing effective policies,” said Karen Hacker, director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.  

According to new data from the CDC, 19 percent of U.S. adults, 47.1 million people, used tobacco products in some form in 2020. Cigarettes remained the most commonly used tobacco product, with 12.5 percent of U.S. adults having smoked cigarettes, the lowest number since data collection began in 1965. 

The use patterns of U.S. adults who smoked cigarettes also largely decreased from 2005 to 2020. Among U.S. adults who smoked daily, those who smoked 20–29 cigarettes per day decreased from 34.9 percent in 2005 to 27.9 percent in 2020, while those who smoked 30 or more cigarettes per day declined from 12.7 percent to 6.4 percent.


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However, a large number of U.S. adults still smoke cigarettes, approximately 30.8 million adults, despite the recent declines, with harrowing health implications. 

Lung cancer, for example, is responsible for 20 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S, according to a study published in the January/February issue of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians

While incidences of lung cancer and lung cancer mortalities have decreased as fewer people smoke, the implications for those who do smoke are deadly. Calculations have shown that 80 percent of 2022’s projected lung cancer deaths will occur in smokers.  

“Despite significant declines in adult tobacco use, our work is far from over,” said Hacker. “We must continue to address tobacco-related health disparities and inequities to ensure everyone has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible.”


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