Smoking rate among Americans hits new low

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LOS ANGELES – Cigarette smoking hit a record low in the first three months of the year, with only 15.2% of U.S. adults lighting up on a regular basis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.

That’s a significant drop from the 16.8% smoking rate for 2014, the CDC said.

The figure is based on preliminary results from the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey. When the data were weighted to account for the actual ages of the U.S. population, it rose to 15.3% – still below the age-adjusted 17% rate for 2014.

The CDC defined current smokers as “those who had smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and now smoke every day or some day.”

Men continue to smoke at higher rates than women – 17.4% versus 13%, the CDC said. However, men also outnumber women among former smokers – 24.3% of men have kicked the habit, along with 19.9% of women. That leaves 67% of women who have never smoked and 58.3% of men.

In early 2015, the smoking rate among younger adults between 18 and 44 was 17%, practically identical to the 16.9% rate for middle-aged Americans between 45 and 64. However, among senior citizens, the smoking rate was only 7.5%, the CDC said.

Latinos (10.4%) were less likely to smoke than whites (17.1%) and African Americans (18.1%), the data show. No figures were reported for Asians or any other racial or ethnic group.

The new report shows a steady decline in smoking rates since 2009, when 20.6% of U.S. adults were current smokers. In 1997, nearly 25% of Americans were smokers.

Story by Karen Kaplan with Los Angeles Times