Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The annual "Great American Smokeout," which will be observed across the U.S. on Thursday, is hardly a celebration -- but advocates spreading the word about the dangers of tobacco do have reason to cheer.
According to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, cigarette smoking among American adults has declined by approximately two thirds in the more than 55 years since the U.S. Surgeon General first reported on the health consequences of smoking.
In all, the CDC estimates, just under 14 percent of adults in the U.S. describe themselves as current cigarette smokers -- the lowest prevalence recorded since statistics were first tracked in 1965.
The American Cancer Society held the first-ever Great American Smokeout in 1976. However, there are still millions who have yet to heed the warnings.
The CDC also found that 34.2 million adults still smoke cigarettes and that marked disparities in tobacco use persist across population groups. Indeed, smoking was highest among American Indian/Alaska Native adults, at 32.3 percent; multiracial adults, at 25.4 percent; non-Hispanic whites, at 21.9 percent; and non-Hispanic blacks, at 19.3 percent.
Tobacco stocks rose Wednesday as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration failed to include planned cuts to nicotine levels in cigarettes to minimally or non-addictive levels on its list of regulation priorities for 2020. The planned reduction was initially announced by former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in July 2017.
At the close of trading, shares of Altria rose 3 percent, while Philip Morris International shares rose about 1 percent.
In a statement following the release of the FDA's list, the American Heart Association said, "Good news for the tobacco industry is bad news for public health and the millions of people nationwide who are impacted by tobacco use. We urge the FDA and the administration to ensure that protecting public health, particularly the health of our nation's kids, tops its priority list. The FDA must take action to reduce the scourge of tobacco use in this country, namely by exercising strong regulatory authority over the manufacture, marketing and sale of all tobacco products."
There is also the use of e-cigarettes. CDC data indicates 8.1 million U.S. adults currently use so-called vaping devices and studies suggest that one-in-four high school-age teens are using these products.