The smoking rate of adults in the United States declined during the first year of the pandemic

NEW YORK (AP) – The first year of the COVID-19 pandemic saw more Americans drinking heavily or using illegal drugs – but apparently did not smoke.

U.S. cigarette smoking fell to a new historic low in 2020, with 1 in 8 adults saying they were current smokers, according to survey data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adult e-cigarette use also declined, the CDC reported.

CDC officials credited public health campaigns and policies for the decline, but external experts said tobacco company price increases and pandemic lifestyle changes were likely to play a role.

“People who were mostly social smokers just didn’t have it anymore,” said Megan Roberts, a researcher at Ohio State University focusing on the use of tobacco products among young adults and teens.

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What’s more, parents who were suddenly at home with their children full time may have cut back. And some people may have quit after reports that smokers were more likely to develop serious illness after a coronavirus infection, Roberts added.

The CDC report, based on a survey of more than 31,000 American adults, found that 19% of Americans used at least one tobacco product by 2020, down from about 21% in 2019.

The use of cigars, smokeless tobacco and pipes was flat. Current consumption of electronic cigarettes fell to 3.7%, down from 4.5% the year before.

Cigarettes were the most widely used tobacco product, with 12.5% ​​of adults using them, down from 14%.

Health authorities have long considered cigarette smoking – a risk factor for lung cancer, heart disease and stroke – to be the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States.

In 1965, 42% of American adults were smokers.

The rate has been steadily declining for decades for a number of reasons, including taxes and smoking bans in workplaces and restaurants. But a big part of the recent fall should be the recent price increases, some experts said.

For example, British American Tobacco – the company that makes brands including Camel, Lucky Strike and Newport – raised prices four times in 2020, by a total of about 50 cents per tonne. package.

Interestingly, the number of cigarettes sold in the United States actually increased in 2020 – the first increase of this kind in two decades, the Federal Trade Commission reported last year.

It is possible that fewer people smoked, but those who did ate more cigarettes.

“It’s a viable hypothesis – that you had people with more opportunities to smoke because they would not work,” said University of Ottawa’s David Sweanor, a global tobacco policy expert at the University of Ottawa.

It is also possible that the CDC survey underestimated how many people smoke, either because some respondents were not honest or because the survey missed too many smokers, he said.

Other studies have suggested that for many people, alcohol consumption and the use of illicit drugs increased in the first year of the pandemic.


The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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