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Number of U.S. smokers declines to all-time low

By Marilyn Malara   |   Nov. 14, 2015 at 12:06 PM

ATLANTA, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- The percentage of adult cigarette smokers in the United States has reached an all-time low.

Declining from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 16.8 percent in 2014, the number of U.S. adults who have turned away from tobacco may be a direct result of emphasized interventions such as media campaigns, new laws and accessible quitting assistance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report Friday.

Adults between the ages of 18 and 24 experienced the most significant decrease in cigarette consumption, the CDC said, although dwindling numbers may be due to increased interest in alternative smoking methods. The use of e-cigarettes and hookahs is assumed to have an impact in young adults' smoking habits, according to the report.

In terms of health insurance, there were higher rates of smokers among those insured by Medicaid only (29.1 percent) and those without insurance (27.9 percent). The percentage of smokers with private health insurance or Medicare was far less, at 12.9 percent and 12.5 percent respectively.

"Smoking kills half a million Americans each year and costs more than $300 billion," said CDC Director Tom Frieden in a statement Thursday. "This report shows real progress helping American smokers quit and that more progress is possible."

The CDC report is part of an ongoing effort to track progress of the Healthy People 2020 objective, aimed to drive nationwide cigarette consumption down to 12 percent of the population or less.

It comes just days after the Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed a controversial large-scale smoking ban in public housing.

"We have a responsibility to protect public housing residents from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke," said HUD Secretary Julian Castro. "This proposed rule will help improve the health of more than 760,000 children and help public housing agencies save $153 million every year in healthcare, repairs and preventable fires."

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