Tobacco use declined among adults in the United States in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. File photo by Billie Jean Shaw/UPI
March 17 (UPI) -- Use of tobacco products including traditional cigarettes and vaping devices has declined to its lowest levels since the mid-1960s, when it was at its peak, according to data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
From 2019 to 2020, the most recent year with statistics available, the percentage of adults who used tobacco nationally fell to 19% from 21%, the data showed.
Over the same period, the percentage of adults who smoke cigarettes dropped to 12.5% from 14%, the agency reported.
Meanwhile, e-cigarette, or vaping device, use decreased from 4.5% of adults across the country to 3.7%, it said.
Still, an estimated 47.1 million adults nationally used tobacco products in 2020, according to the agency.
"This is definitely positive news as these numbers are continuing a downward trend in tobacco use we've seen in the past few years," Thomas A. Carr, national director, policy, at the American Lung Association, told UPI in a phone interview.
"That said, tobacco use is a big cause of lung disease, so the problem isn't solved," he said.
Tobacco use has been linked with an increased risk for lung cancer, emphysema and other respiratory illness, according to the American Lung Association.
The 2020 numbers, the release of which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is based on a survey of nearly 32,000 adults age 18 years and older from across the United States, the CDC said.
Current cigarette smoking was defined as smoking 100 or more cigarettes during one's lifetime and now smoking cigarettes "every day" or "some days," the agency said.
For other products, such as cigars, pipes, hookahs and vaping pens, respondents were considered current users if they used them at least once and now did so "every day" or "some days," it said.
More men, about 25%, than women, about 14%, were current users of tobacco products in 2020 and use was more common in adults ages 25 to 44 years, at 23%, than in those ages 18 to 24 years, at 18%, or those age 65 years and older, at 12%, the data showed.
Nearly 35% of adults who identified as American Indian or Alaska Native were current users, more than those who identified as White, at 21%, or Black, at 19%, the CDC said.
Just under 12% of Hispanic Americans included in the survey were current tobacco users, according to the agency.
Current cigarette smoking was more common among people who resided in rural areas in 2020 than in urban-dwellers, particularly for White Americans, at 62% higher, but also for Black and Hispanic Americans, each at 38% higher, it said.
Continued efforts to education the public about the dangers of tobacco use -- such as the CDC's own TIPS campaign -- and laws designed to create more non-smoking areas can further reduce these numbers, Carr said.
In addition, taxes on tobacco products and banning flavored tobacco would also help, he said.