Published 1:40 PM EST Nov 15, 2019
Cigarette smoking among adults in the U.S. has hit an all-time low, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC reports 13.7 percent of U.S. adults smoke cigarettes, about a two-thirds drop since the first Surgeon General’s report warned against smoking more than than 50 years ago.
“This marked decline in cigarette smoking is the achievement of a consistent and coordinated effort by the public health community and our many partners,” CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said in a statement.
For 49.1 million tobacco users, cigarettes continue to be the most widely-used product, followed by cigars and e-cigarettes.
While health professionals celebrate the good news, other experts fear people may switch back to cigarettes because of recent vaping-related injuries and deaths.
As of Wednesday, the CDC reports 2,172 confirmed and probable vape-associated lung injury cases in 49 states, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Alaska is the only state that doesn’t have any cases of vape-related injury.
The CDC reports there have also been 42 deaths related to vaping in 24 states and D.C.
Dr. Humberto Choi, a pulmonologist at Cleveland Clinic, told USA TODAY that cigarette relapse is a very real concern among medical professionals.
“I do worry about people who are vaping now that they may go back to cigarette smoking,” he said.
It’s not just the recent vaping scare that has the potential to turn people back. Choi says that vaping was never an effective method to help people quit smoking cigarettes.
A study published in July found that people who attempted to quit smoking using e-cigarettes were more likely to relapse within two years than those who didn’t vape.
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Additionally, other studies have shown e-cigarettes have become a gateway to nicotine addiction for people who previously didn’t use tobacco products. As vaping among young people increases, Choi is concerned they could become the next generation of smokers if they don’t find adequate treatment.
“It’s not just quitting vaping,” he said. “We also need to treat that nicotine addiction.”
However, Choi is optimistic that cigarette smoking will continue to decline as long as communities amp up efforts to educate youth about the dangers of smoking and vaping.
“The decline is mostly due to this comprehensive effort that we’ve had from not just the clinical side but also from the legislative side,” Choi said. This includes banning smoking in public spaces and increasing the legal age to buy nicotine, he said.
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New York state increased the legal age of smoking and vaping from 18 to 21 in an attempt to curb the use of tobacco products.
Signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in July, the new law took effect Wednesday. By doing so, New York became the 18th state in the nation to enact a smoking age of 21.
“This is an example of how legislative policies have had a positive impact,” Choi said. “The increase of vaping in the past few years is just an example of a failure of that.
“Hopefully we use the same lessons for smoking to electronic cigarettes.”
Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.