Though the rate of smoking among U.S. adults has remained relatively stagnant over the past few years — hovering around 20 percent as reported by the CDC in September — there is still some good news to be had. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association uses two large, population-based surveys comprising a total of 1,662,353 respondents to determine if smokers are smoking fewer cigarettes. In 1965, 22.9 percent of Americans were high-intensity smokers, meaning they smoked at least a pack a day. But by 2007, that number fell to only 7.2 percent. That means high-intensity smokers represented 56 percent of all smokers in the 1960s, but only 40 percent by 2007. The difference was even more pronounced in California, a state that has led the nation in anti-smoking efforts, where only 2.6 percent of adult residents were high-intensity smokers in 2007 compared to 23.2 percent in 1965.
ACSH staffers were pleased to see that public health measures such as higher costs, higher taxes, less advertising and smoke-free workplaces and restaurants are likely having a measurable effect even among smokers — and that the prevalence of high-intensity smoking is decreasing at an even faster rate.