Adult Tobacco Use Rates Are Down Overall but Disparities Remain Significant

March 17, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tobacco use rates among US adults hit an all-time low, but rates remain high among certain populations according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today. Overall adult rates in 2020 fell to 19%, down from 20.8% in 2019, but 1 in 5 US adults still report currently using tobacco products and specific demographic groups use tobacco at rates nearly double that. The report finds tobacco use is highest among individuals who live in rural areas (27.3%), non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native adults (34.9%), individuals whose highest level of education attainment was GED (40.5%), have an annual income level below $35,000 (25.2%), identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (25.1%), are uninsured (27.3%) or have insurance through Medicaid (28.6%), have a disability (25.4%), or regularly had feelings of anxiety (29.6%) or depression (35.6%).

The following is a statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN.)

“The CDC’s data showing a decline in tobacco use rates among adults in 2020 is welcomed news and further evidence that passing and enacting proven tobacco control policies is effective in reducing tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases like cancer. ACS CAN is active in every state capitol across the country, in many localities, as well as on Capitol Hill, to make sure lawmakers know that public policy interventions are proven solutions to reduce the deadly impact tobacco use has on the health of their cities, states and the nation. Clearly, ongoing work to reduce tobacco initiation and to support cessation for those addicted is paying off.

“However, 1 in 5 Americans still report current tobacco use and disparities in tobacco use among different demographics continue to be alarming and must be addressed with increased urgency. The tobacco industry has long targeted people with lower incomes and education levels, LGBTQ+ individuals, Black Americans and those with mental health conditions which results in addiction. We must put an end to these predatory practices with evidence-based policies, including ensuring state Medicaid programs cover all FDA-approved cessation treatments and all forms of cessation counseling to provide individuals with access to the help they need to quit. Additionally, all lawmakers can reduce the cancer burden by championing comprehensive smoke-free laws in states that have not yet done so to protect everyone’s right to breathe smoke-free air, support the passage of regular and significant tobacco tax increases to help encourage individuals to quit and to keep kids from a lifetime of addiction and support increased funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

“We should certainly take a moment to celebrate continued declines in adult tobacco use rates, but 47.1 million adults reporting current use of a product that kills more than 480,000 Americans each year is far too many. If we are to reduce suffering and death from cancer, we must bring these numbers down.”

Media Contacts

Emily Burr
Director, Media Advocacy
Washington, D.C.
Alissa Crispino
Vice President, Advocacy Communications & Policy
Washington, D.C.